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Open verdict in inquest

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Open verdict in inquest

Anton McNulty

AN OPEN verdict was recorded at the inquest of an 82-year-old widow who died in a fire at her residence in Straide last year.
The Coroner for South Mayo, John O’Dwyer, returned the verdict after he said he could not give a conclusive reason for the start of the fire at the residence of Mrs Ellen McHale of Pollagh, Straide, Foxford on March 16 last. Mrs McHale lived alone in the house and was very ill and bedridden when she died.
Mrs Marian McHale, the daughter-in-law of the deceased was the last person to see Mrs McHale alive. She told the inquest she lived with her husband Paddy across the road from her mother-in-law and because of her ailing health she stayed with her husband in her mother-in-law’s house.
She explained that at nine o’clock in the morning her mother-in-law was asleep and she last saw her between ten o’clock and half past ten and she was still asleep. She went to her own home to make some porridge and when she returned with her husband, they found the kitchen filled with smoke and she called the emergency services.
Mr Paddy McHale explained that when he opened the door a blast of smoke came out 15 feet and he tried to get into the house about three times. He broke the window of his mother’s bedroom and tried to get in but he could not. He said he saw a round ball of fire about a foot square, approximately three feet from the bed where the electric motor for the mattress was.
The fire brigade arrived at the scene at 11.13am and retrieved the body of Mrs McHale from the house at 11.20am.
Evidence was also given by Sergeant Eamon Breslin of the Divisional Scenes of Crime Unit who said the bed was motorised, which allowed it to be raised and lowered. He added that this, along with an electric blanket, air flow mattress and a television were plugged into a four socket extension which was plugged into a single wall socket. He said the television, which was placed in a television bracket, had fallen on the bed and the electric blanket was on the off position. There were cigarettes and matches beside the bed, but he was told the deceased was unable to smoke without assistance.
Sgt Breslin said that, having examined the exhibits from the room, there was nothing at the scene to suggest that the fire was nothing other than accidental.
Dr Iqdam Tobbia, Consultant Pathologist, told the inquest that in his opinion the death was due to extensive third degree total body burns and severe dehydration.
Mr O’Dwyer said it was not clear to him what was the cause of death as there was nothing conclusive in evidence as to how the fire started, other than it was accidental. He gave an open verdict and expressed sympathy with the family.