A SCHULL-based chef died in a freak accident after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from barbeque equipment while he slept in his parked van in Cork, an inquest heard last week.
Frank Murphy (45) from Heather Lodge, Gubeen, Schull, died from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in his van on the Coal Quay in Cork city centre during the Cork Jazz Festival weekend – on the morning of October 30th last – after a late night running a barbecue outside the Bodega bar and restaurant in the city.
A native of Ballincollig, Mr Murphy was well known at food markets around West Cork for his Frankie’s Badass Burgers after originally setting up at Skibbereen Market before branching out and setting up his stand at other events in towns in West Cork.
The inquest at Cork City Coroner’s Court heard that on the night in question, Mr Murphy decided to sleep in his Ford Transit van when he finished up at the Bodega at around 4.15am as he knew he would have to be back at work at 7am and it wasn’t worth driving home.
The inquest heard evidence that suggested the carbon monoxide poisoning was caused by propane gas from two bottles that Mr Murphy was using in the barbeque not being fully burned off before he placed them in the back of his Ford Transit van after finishing up work around 4am.
Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that she carried out a post-mortem examination on Mr Murphy and found that his blood showed a carbon monoxide saturation level of 63% which was well above the fatal level of 50% carbon monoxide saturation.
Dr Bolster said that she couldn’t be specific as to the cause or source of the carbon monoxide poisoning but the inquest heard from PSV Garda Inspector John White that he ran two tests on the Ford Transit van and found that its carbon monoxide emissions were well within acceptable levels.
One test showed levels of one part per million and the other showed levels of three parts per million which were well within acceptable levels of 100 parts per million of carbon monoxide and he was satisfied that the van was not the source of the harmful carbon monoxide found in the driver’s compartment. The inquest also heard evidence from scenes of crime examiner, Garda James O’Sullivan who said there was a distinct smell of gas in the van when he examined it later and Coroner Philip Comyn observed the only other possible source of gas was from the propane bottles from the barbecue.
Yann Delalande from Ardmanagh in Schull told how he had worked that night with Mr Murphy and after they finished up outside the Bodega at around 4.30am, he helped him put the barbeque equipment in the back of the van and left Mr Murphy who was going to sleep in the van.
The tragedy came to light when Mr Murphy’s sister, Paula Larkin spotted his van after calling into the Bodega to look for him at around 11am on the morning of October 30th. When she looked into the van, she saw him lying on the floor and she couldn’t open the doors so she ran for help to the Bodega.
Carpenter, James Kelleher came out from the Bodega and went over to the van where he saw Mr Murphy stretched out in the floor with froth coming from his mouth so he got a hammer and smashed the driver’s window and opened the doors which were locked. He got no smell of gas.
The inquest also heard evidence from UCC medical student Emer Wall and paramedic, Denise Forde how they performed CPR on Mr Murphy but they were unable to resuscitate him and he was pronounced dead at the scene at 12.47pm.
Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn returned a verdict of accidental death and extended his sympathies to Mr Murphy’s widow, Julie and his sisters, Maria and Paula on their tragic loss and said that if it was any consolation, they should know Mr Murphy would have died in his sleep without any pain.