A man who died from smoke inhalation at a fire at his home had told neighbours not long previously that his chimney had been blocked by crows.
Martin O’Driscoll had lived at an apartment at 1A High St in Drimoleague in Co Cork. Bantry Coroner’s Court heard that, when he returned from attending a concert, he discovered a fire that appeared to have been building for hours.
Coroner Frank O’Connell was told that Mr O’Driscoll, aged 59, had gone to the Westlodge Hotel on July 6, 2018, with Kathleen Murphy.
Ms Murphy said taxi driver Timothy O’Driscoll had first dropped Martin home and then took her back to her house, where she texted Martin to let him know she had got back. There was no answer.
Tim O’Driscoll told the coroner that on dropping Martin back, he got a smell of smoke.
“It was like someone was lighting a fire with kindling,” he said.
A statement from another neighbour, read out in court, outlined how she had seen smoke coming from Martin O’Driscoll’s chimney at 7.45pm as she left to go to bingo, and that smoke was still coming from the chimney when she returned home.
She also said that Martin had said locally that his chimney had been blocked by crows.
The deceased’s brother, Finn O’Driscoll, said Martin was a single man who was very active and who loved travelling.
Finn O’Driscoll said his brother’s apartment contained “thousands” of newspapers and stacks of clothes, agreeing with the coroner’s observation that Martin was “a hoarder”.
Finn O’Driscoll said he did not think his brother would have lit a fire in July.
However, Garda Ambrose Whiddy said forensic examiners had suggested that the seat of the fire was in or around the fireplace.
It appeared that there had been a build-up of carbon monoxide in the room and that when Mr O’Driscoll opened the door on his return, oxygen had rushed in, creating an explosion.
Mr O’Driscoll had tried to quell the fire using a fire extinguisher, but examination of the scene and autopsy evidence given by Dr Margot Bolster, the assistant State pathologist, indicated that while he managed to get into another room, he became overwhelmed by fumes and became unconscious.
The coroner ruled that Mr O’Driscoll had died as a result of acute carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by a house fire at the property on July 7, 2018, delivering a verdict of accidental death.