The likely cause of a fire that claimed the life of a 30-year-old Gweedore man was a lit cigarette falling on to the bed of his mobile home, Letterkenny Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.
Columba Doherty from Stranacorkra, Derrybeg, died on January 31, 2010, when a fire ripped through his mobile home at Brinalack in the early hours of the morning.
Witness Caitriona Gallagher said she was dropping someone home at 6.45am when she noticed a lot of smoke coming from the direction of the caravan and she called the fire services.
She knew it was Mr Dohertys caravan and had seen him in Sea View night club earlier that night. She said she did not observe any other people or cars in the area at the time.
Taxi driver Michael Ferry told the coroners court he had taken Mr Doherty, whom he knew personally, home at approximately 4.30am after collecting him outside a local takeaway. He shared the taxi bus with others and after he alighted he did not see him enter the mobile as he drove off.
He said Mr Doherty had drink taken but was “not very drunk”.
Garda Odhran McBride said he was called to the scene of the blaze at approximately 7am. He found the remains of the victim in the bedroom of the caravan. His body was removed to the hospital and pieces of blue denim jeans, boxer shorts, belt buckle and a Sekonda watch were recovered.
These were shown to his sister Ann McFadden and brother Charlie Doherty in an effort to identify the body.
Ms McFadden recognised the watch and later got photographs of a social gathering he had attended the previous night and he could be observed wearing the same coloured jeans and watch that was recovered.
Dental records were sought from a dentist in Co. Tipperary and were deemed a “high probability” of being a match.
Garda McBride said the seat of the fire appeared to have been at the right hand side of the victim, on top of the bed where it was so intense it burned right through the floor to the ground.
There were a number of modern appliances in the caravan at the time but they were not being used.
He said it was possible the fire started from a lit cigarette falling onto the bed or mattress.
The was no indication Mr Doherty had attempted to escape the fire and was probably sleeping at the time.
Pathologist Dr Jerry O’Dowd said the identity was confirmed with dental records as there was extensive thermal tissue injuries and fluid on the deceased man’s lungs.
He concluded death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning secondary to smoke inhalation as the result of a fire.
His brother, Charlie Doherty, said Columba had travelled from Co. Offaly the evening before he died to attend a 21st birthday party and he saw him that night.
He got call at 7.10am the following morning to inform him about the fire.
He said his brother had worked “on and off” in Offaly and kept the mobile home as his residence when he was back in the county, which he was often.
Senior scene of Crime Investigator, Sergeant John Harkin, said the mobile was modern, well constructed and maintained but was “extremely damaged” in the fire.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death in keeping with Dr O’Dowds findings.
Offering his condolences to the family Coroner Sean Cannon on the tragic death of Columba whom he described as “very industrious” man work worked to keep his residence in “good order and well maintained” prior to the “tragedy”.
Garda Inspector Kevin Gately extended his condolences to the family on behalf of the Gardai.