Death of elderly man in 2014 due to hypothermia, inquest hears

AN elderly man who died of hypothermia didn’t use a heater at home because he was afraid of fire, an inquest heard.

Thomas McNamara (86) from Church Lane, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 was found collapsed at his home suffering from profound hypothermia on Dec 20 2014. His temperature had plummeted to 23.9 degrees, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

His wife Maire McNamara had been taken into hospital the previous month.

Described as a ‘sparky character with a real Dublin wit’, Mr McNamara was found lying in his hallway by concerned staff from his local pub.

Bernie McGrattan, assistant manager at the Cat and Cage pub in Drumcondra, said Mr McNamara was a regular customer. She called to his house to check on him and bring dinner. She brought him an electric heater that he refused to use.

“He was afraid I think, because he thought it was a fire hazard,” she said. She obtained a house key from Mr McNamara’s wife in hospital in order to keep an eye on him.

On December 20, Bernie McGrattan and Glen Daly, a DJ at the pub found the partially clothed elderly man collapsed in the hall, next to an overturned coat stand.

He was rushed to the Mater hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11.05pm. Tragically, his wife was also in the Mater, but he died before she could see him.

“I last saw him around the end of November. He hated hospitals. On December 20 I got a call about Thomas but when I got there he had already died,” Maire McNamara said in her deposition.

The cause of death was hypothermia and bronchial pneumonia, according to Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

On behalf of Maire McNamara, solicitor Colm Price praised those who tried to help Mr McNamara for their ‘kindness, consideration and wonderful neighbourliness.’

“To find someone in this day and age prepared to go to this length to look after a customer is unique,” Mr Price said. The coroner agreed their actions were ‘exemplary.’

“There are still good people in the world,” Dr Cullinane said.

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