Fire that claimed 10 lives at Dublin halting site reached temperatures in excess of 650 degrees Celsius, inquest hears

Fire that claimed 10 lives at Dublin halting site reached temperatures in excess of 650 degrees Celsius, inquest hears
Firefighter, and paramedic, Ray Martin, left, and Paramedic Rebecca Mooney, right, leave the Coroners Court today. Pic: Collins

A deadly fire that claimed ten lives at a Dublin halting site reached temperatures in excess of 650 degrees Celsius.

Ballistic detectives gave evidence of the recovery of nine bodies from an extensively burnt mobile, the home of Thomas Connors, his wife Sylvia and their five children at the Glenamuck halting site in Carrickmines.

The deadly fire ignited and spread rapidly from the kitchen through the mobile, killing all nine occupants within 15 minutes. It then spread through an upper window in the main bedroom to a second mobile located less than one metre away shortly after 4am on October 10, 2015.

Four of the deceased identified as Thomas Connors (aged 27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their sons Jimmy (five) and Christy (three) were recovered from the main bedroom. Willie Lynch (aged 25), his pregnant partner Tara Gilbert (aged 27) and their two daughters Jodie (nine) and Kelsey (four) were recovered from the second, smaller bedroom. Jimmy Lynch (aged 39) was removed from the kitchen area, near the seat of the fire which ignited from hot oil in a chip pan on an electric cooker.

Thomas Connors and his wife Sylvia
Thomas Connors and his wife Sylvia

The chip pan was so badly burnt it was almost unrecognisable, Detective Garda Shane Curran told Dublin Coroner’s Court.

“The whole unit was subject to extreme fire damage, with the entire roof destroyed. The kitchen was the most intense area of burning, particularly around the cooker area.

"There was a molten lump of aluminium on the rear right hot plate. There was a metal basket that had warped, suggesting a chip pan had been in place,” Det Gda Curran said.

The court heard the chip pan was aluminium, which melts at 650 degrees Celsius.

“The fire (temperature) was above that in this location. The remains of a chip pan was all but burnt away so as to be almost unrecognisable,” Det Gda Curran said.

Detectives found the rear right hot plate in the powered on position.

The aftermath of the fire at the halting site. Pic: Rollingnews.ie
The aftermath of the fire at the halting site. Pic: Rollingnews.ie

“The fact the chip pan had completely melted strongly suggests there was a sustained fire in that area. No other likely ignition source was found,” Det. Gda Curran said.

Family members left the courtroom as the jury heard evidence of how DNA was used to identify the remains of the deceased. Detectives used the Interpol system to identify remains for the first time in a process coordinated by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.

All nine bodies were found on the floor of the destroyed unit.

The court heard that deadly carbon monoxide works its way down from ceiling height.

“Someone who stands up in these conditions could be quickly overcome by poisonous gases,” Det. Garda David O’Leary told the court.

The aftermath of the fire at the halting site.
The aftermath of the fire at the halting site.

The inquest heard details of how the fire spread through the mobile, burning through closed bedroom doors, before spreading to the next mobile, where baby Mary Connors had been placed after she was recovered from the fire. The distance between the two units was 81cm.

The inquest heard from the first Gardaí, paramedics and firemen to arrive at the scene.

Dublin Fire Brigade units responded to a call at 4.20am.

Garda Christina O’Neill arrived at the scene at 4.38am.

“From the opposite side of the M50 there was substantial smoke visible and you could see flames,” Garda O’Neill said.

Firefighter Ray Martin entered the burning mobile, where the fire had spread, with his colleague Vaughan Mason in a bid to save baby Mary Connors. The six-month-old infant had been rescued from the fire next door along with her brother Tom by their uncle, John Keith Connors (aged 14).

“There was a lot of thick smoke and heat ... I saw the baby lying on the bed with the duvet turned over beside her. I took the baby off the bed and cradled her and brought her to the door,” Mr Martin said.

Baby Mary displayed no signs of life, she was not breathing. There were burn marks on her face and arms, the inquest heard. She was rushed to Tallaght Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The inquest continues tomorrow with expert technical evidence from the scene of the fatal fire.

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