herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Homeless man found on fire in his hostel bed

The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.
The Dublin Coroners Court, Store St. Pic Tom Burke.

Workers at a homeless hostel found a man engulfed in flames when they responded to a fire alarm in his room, an inquest has heard.

Martin McDonagh (55), a resident at Back Lane Hostel, Dublin 8, may have had a heart attack before his clothes caught fire on the afternoon of October 23, 2013. It is believed the fire was started by a cigarette.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that Mr McDonagh, a heavy drinker with a history of burns, went into his room at 1.50pm and 20 minutes later his personal panic alarm was set off.

Back Lane Hostel worker Columba Nee said that when he checked the room, Mr McDonagh was in bed smoking, which was not allowed.

He had also been drinking and was abusive, Mr Nee said. The personal alarm was around his neck, but he denied pressing it.

Another worker, Shane Lavelle, said they took the personal alarm from around his neck and placed it on the locker to prevent him choking.

Just over two hours later, a fire alarm went off in Mr McDonagh's room. Mr Lavelle and Mr Nee went to the room and found it full of smoke.

extinguisher

"I could see Martin lying on the bed on fire. He was lying on his back and I could see his torso area, head and hair in flames," said Mr Nee.

The deceased was still holding a burnt-out cigarette in his hand.

Mr Nee said he wrapped the duvet around him to try to smother the fire. There were still flames coming from Mr McDonagh's left shoulder and neck and Mr Lavelle said he used the fire extinguisher to put the rest of the fire out.

They then began CPR. However, when paramedics arrived on scene they found no signs of life.

Pathologist Dr Muna Sabah found Mr McDonagh suffered some burns and had significant pre-existing heart disease.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said there was a "high level" of alcohol in his blood. There was evidence of smoke inhalation, but the carbon monoxide levels in his blood were below 10pc, suggesting he died very quickly.

Dr Farrell said it was "more probable" that Mr McDonagh developed a heart problem and was subsequently burned.

He returned a narrative verdict.

hnews@herald.ie

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