THE heartbroken mother of two little boys who died in an accidental house fire sobbed as she recalled how she desperately tried to save them.
STACEY Ellard (26) wept as she said she awoke to discover her house filled with smoke and ran into a bedroom to drag Calvin (4) and Cian (2) to safety.
But she was overcome by smoke and collapsed on the bedroom floor with one boy cradled in her arms. The second child was found lying on the bed.
Cian Ellard Punch died minutes after being dragged from his terraced home at Elm Park in Wilton, Cork, at 4.20am on October 30 2011.
His brother Calvin died four days later in Cork University Hospital.
Ms Ellard survived after being treated for severe smoke inhalation.
A coroner's inquest yesterday heard that the fatal blaze was caused by the oven grill in the kitchen having been accidentally left switched on. It was found at the relatively high heat setting of '5'.
Ms Ellard was so distraught she had to be supported in the witness box by a friend.
"I woke up and the house was hot and full of smoke," the young woman wept.
"I could not breathe. My first thought was to get Cian and Calvin out of the house. I may have ran into their bedroom. I remember the moon shining in the window and I screamed for help.
"The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital," she sobbed.
The mother-of-two had attended a Halloween party with her sister Karen that night, with her brother, Wayne, agreeing to babysit the two boys.
He said he cooked two pies in the oven but did not use the grill. He also insisted that he had turned the oven off after using it.
Ms Ellard said that she returned home at 2am and heated a slice of pizza for herself in the microwave after Wayne left.
"I have no recollection of using the oven," she said.
Her 19-year-old neighbour, Nicole Collins, awoke at 4am to discover smoke in her house and the sound of screams from next door.
Ms Collins heard: "Oh my God, oh my God" coming from Stacey Ellard's home.
Her mother, Sharon, and her friend, Pat Fox, immediately raised the alarm and desperately tried to rescue the trapped mother and children.
"There was nothing that neighbours or gardai could have done.
"I kicked in the front door and immediately black smoke come out on top of me. I put a jacket over my head and got a torch and tried to go in but I could only take three steps inside before I had to get back out because of the acrid black smoke," Mr Fox said.
Four fire brigade officers using breathing apparatus eventually had to rescue the mother and two children.
Garda Jim O'Sullivan said an investigation revealed nothing suspicious about the fire. He said the source of the blaze was the grill. He said it generated an intense heat source which scorched the oven sides, the ceiling and the rafters.
The heat became so intense that it even melted the handle of a frying pan and filled the two-storey semi-detached house with thick black smoke.
Det Garda O'Sullivan said that given the intense, slow-burning nature of the fire the grill may have been left on for a number of hours.
The house was fitted with a working fire alarm downstairs.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a verdict of accidental death for both children who died from the effects of smoke inhalation and described the case as "a terrible tragedy".
"The loss of two children in this way has been absolutely devastating for this young couple," she said.
"It was a tragically simple sequence of events leading to a very tragic outcome."