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Saturday 10 December 2016

Pensioner (92) screamed for help as gas explosion filled her flat with fire

Inquest

Bridget Berry
Bridget Berry

A 92-year-old woman screamed for help after fire flashed through her flat following a gas explosion, an inquest has heard.

Bridget (Bridie) Berry cried "help me, help me" as neighbours rushed to her aid after the explosion at her flat in O'Rahilly House, Ringsend, Dublin 4 on January 15 last year.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard she suffered partial and full thickness burns and survived for five days before dying at St James's Hospital on January 20.

COOKEr

It is believed the gas exploded after building up in the ground floor flat when one of the cooker rings was left open for a period before Mrs Berry, who lived alone, tried to light it as she prepared a night-time snack.

Her niece Ann Moran told the coroner Mrs Berry was undergoing regular dialysis for a kidney complaint but was able to look after herself and "had all her faculties".

Next door neighbour Thomas Mullen told the court he was watching television with his wife when they heard a noise "like an engine of a plane" so loud that they ducked. They were looking around outside for the source of the noise when they heard Mrs Berry screaming for help from her kitchen.

When Mr Mullen entered the flat, Mrs Berry was lying on the floor in the kitchen on fire.

There were flames on her upper legs and mid-torso and he used a tea towel to put them out.

He rolled her back into a sitting position.

"Mrs Berry was saying to me 'don't let me die'. She said it three times to me. On the third time I told her 'you're not going to die'," he said.

While putting out the flames, Mr Mullen noticed the gas hob was turned on and he turned it off.

Mrs Berry was initially taken to St Vincent's Hospital and was admitted to intensive care before being transferred to the National Burns Unit at St James's Hospital the following day.

She underwent surgery there on January 17.

She was stable post-operatively, however her condition began to deteriorate and she died on January 20.

At post-mortem the pathologist found she died from "lobar pneumonia" as a complication of severe burns sustained in the gas explosion.

When Bord Gais emergency engineers went to the scene they could find no faults or leaks in the gas supply or cooker.

flame

The court heard the hob was more than ten years old and not equipped with a "flame failure" device which would have turned off the gas in the event of it not being lit.

Garda Shane Horgan said the Dublin Fire Brigade officer in charge at the scene told him they believed the "gas had been left on prior to [Mrs Berry] lighting it and the excess gas had ignited and exited the flat through the bedroom window which was blown out".

There was also some damage to the kitchen caused by the flashover when the gas ignited.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

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