Killarney woman died in fire caused by clothes left on heater's extension lead

Coroner returns a verdict of accidental death due to smoke inhalation after fire at Kathleen Corcoran's home
Killarney woman died in fire caused by clothes left on heater's extension lead

Firefighters were called to Kathleen Corcoran's home where she was found dead after gardaí could not gain entrance to the house. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

A 76-year-old woman died as a result of smoke inhalation most likely caused by the lead of a heater which lay on top of clothes, an inquest has heard.

Kathleen Corcoran of Roseville, Fossa, Killarney, lived alone but was in regular contact with her neighbour Michael O’Donovan.

On February 14, Mr O’Donovan became concerned as he had not seen her in a few days and had made a number of phone calls trying to reach her. When he called to the house to check on her he immediately smelled smoke, he told the inquest into her death at the coroner’s court in Killarney.

He also saw evidence of soot on some of the windows.

“I smelled smoke and called the gardaí,” he said. The house “was completely sealed,” he said.

Gardaí arrived and there was a smell of burning plastic, and cobwebs which had turned black, Garda Majella Lynch told the inquest. Gardaí called for assistance from the fire service as they could not enter the property, Garda Lynch said.

Electric cable at seat of the fire

Sub-station officer at Killarney Fire Station, John O’Grady, said when fire crews arrived, the body of a female lay by the main entrance, but the door was jammed. Entering through the rear of the property, they saw evidence of smoke damage. They identified the seat of the fire as that of a lead to a heater. Underneath the lead was clothes. This had probably caused the lead to overheat, Mr O’Grady said.

The fire had gone out as it was starved of oxygen, he said.

A post mortem was carried out at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) to rule out anything criminal, the inquest was told. It found no evidence of trauma and the cause of death was found to be smoke inhalation with underlying heart disease a contributing factor.

Neighbour had been in contact

Micheal O'Donovan said he had known Kathleen Corcoran for over 40 years. Her brother had died in the US a month prior to her death, and the O’Donovans would have contacted her regularly either in person or by phone.

She had lived on her own since 1995, he told Aisling Quilter, coroner.

She had no home help and was “very much a private person, and we respected that, ” Mr O’Donovan replied to questions from the coroner.

Coroner Aisling Quilter returned a verdict of accidental death. Clothes close to an extension lead was the likely cause of the fire, she said. The Coroner and Superintendent Flor Murphy of Killarney Gardaí extended their condolences to the late Ms Corcoran’s family and friends.

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