herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Blaze that killed 10 likely to have been started by unattended oven

The aftermath of the blaze at the Carrickmines site
The aftermath of the blaze at the Carrickmines site

An unattended oven is suspected of sparking a fire on a halting site which claimed 10 lives.

A forensic investigation into the fire at a halting site in Carrickmines in South Dublin last month has determined that the blaze began in the kitchen and spread quickly, engulfing the entire unit.

It is believed that those killed in the tragic fire died from smoke inhalation.

Five adults and five children perished in the blaze.

Willie Lynch (25) and Tara Gilbert (27) died alongside their daughters Kelsey and Jodie. Tara was four months pregnant.

Thomas Connors (27) and his wife Sylvia (25) and their children Jim (5), Christy (2) and six-month-old Mary also lost their lives in the fire.

A brother of Willie Lynch, Jimmy (39), also died.

It is expected that the findings of the forensic investigation will be submitted at the inquests of those who died.

A forensic investigation into a fire examines all possibilities including arson - which was ruled out in this case due to no use of accelerants. The Sunday Times newspaper has also seen correspondence from various bodies to Dun Laoghaire County Council about conditions on the halting site.

Concern

The HSE, child and family agency Tusla and the National Maternity Hospital all penned letters expressing concern about the halting site conditions there.

Improper cooking facilities were flagged in the correspondence. A social worker with Tulsa wrote to the local authority to support the Connors family's bid to be housed in council housing.

"I am concerned that this family, who have a small child (and another due in November), are living in such a small caravan that does not fit in a cot," the social worker wrote.

A second social worker also wrote a letter in July, just three months before the fire caused the deaths of 10 people.

The second letter stated that the family were "living in a small cabin with very little space for them and their two children".

"They also lack, at present, any proper cooking facilities," the letter continued.

The HSE also penned a warning letter pointing out that there was an overflow problem with the sewerage tank at the site. "The most alarming observation from the family is the amount of rats they see," the HSE wrote. "Parents are afraid to let children out to play."

When asked why the council did not act on the issues raised by the various bodies, a spokesman for the council said that it was not possible to respond until the matter had been looked into fully.

The spokesman did not respond when asked if they were due to make a submission to the inquest of the 10 deceased.

The council said that they have not yet been formally informed of the results of the investigation and did not wish to speculate at this time.

The fire has sparked a national conversation about the standard of Traveller accommodation at sites.

Recently, Pavee Point delivered a petition to Leinster House calling for a public body with responsibility solely for Travellers to be established. The group said that urgent action was needed "to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again". More than 5,000 people have signed the petition calling for a Traveller agency to be set up.

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