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Television caused fire that claimed life of Ballina widow

Television fire claimed life of Ballina widow

Anton McNulty

A mother of four died from carbon monoxide poisoning following a fire in her home which is believed to have started when a television caught fire.
Ann Hallinan (62) of 8, Convent Hill Crescent, Ballina was found dead by members of the fire service on December 11 last in an upstairs bedroom after she was overcome by thick black smoke. Her son Dominick raised the alarm after he arrived home at 4.30am and the smoke prevented him from going upstairs to reach his mother.
The inquest into her death which was held in Ballina court house heard that Ms Hallinan would most likely have died from carbon monoxide poisoning by the time her son arrived home. The post mortem of her body showed that there were no burns to her body but the amount of carbon monoxide in her body was at a ‘lethal level’.
The investigation into the start of the fire revealed that the source of the fire was the television located on a chest of drawers in Mrs Hallinan’s bedroom. Inspector Joe Doherty explained that an examination could not determine if the fire started in or on the television through an external heat source.
He described the fire as a slow burning smoldering fire and added that no accellerants were found at the scene.
Mrs Hallinan, a widow, lived with her son Dominick, who is a student in NUI Galway. He told the inquest that at 9pm on December 10, 2011 his mother said she was going to bed and she was watching television in bed. At 11.30pm he went to a friend’s house and arrived home again at 4.30am. He said he only noticed the smoke when he entered the house but could not go up stairs because of the ‘thick black smoke’.
He called his mother’s name but she did not answer and he called the emergency services. Christopher Birrane of the Ballina Fire Service said the smoke was so thick they had to go on their hands and knees to try and find Mrs Hallinan. He added that the smoke was so dense they had to wipe the dust off their visors.
He said they searched her bedroom but could not find her and eventually found her in another bedroom. She was on the floor and did not answer him and efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.
Pathologist Dr Fadel Bennani said the level of carbon monoxide in her blood was 55 per cent which was ‘lethal’ with 40 per cent the level when life is considered to be in danger. He said that with carbon monoxide poisoning even administering oxygen may not revive a person and the only remedy is to replace the blood.
The coroner for north Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald said they did not know all the answers but it seemed that Ms Hallinan left her bedroom before being overcome by the smoke. She said the death highlighted the dangers of having electrical appliances on at night and expressed sympathy to her family.

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