A CORK coroner will issue witness summons for eight people who appeared to ‘boycott’ an inquest into the deaths of two men who died in a house fire in Macroom earlier this year.
South Cork coroner Frank O’Connell, said it couldn’t be a coincidence that eight witnesses failed to attend the inquests into the deaths of Kenny Relihan (26) and Noel O’Mahony (64) in a house fire at St Colman’s Park in Macroom on May 2nd.
Mr O’Connell said it appeared the witnesses, including Mr Relihan’s mother, Noreen McAuliffe, who was seriously injured in the fire, and neighbours, Ryan Manning and Timmy Coleman, who tried to save the two deceased, were ‘boycotting’ the inquest for some reason.
‘I want to assure these civilian witnesses that they have nothing to fear, and nothing to be concerned about. An inquest is not about apportioning blame. Two of the witnesses who did not attend today made heroic efforts to try and save those who died,’ said Mr O’Connell.
He added that witnesses are not criticised at inquests but it’s very important that people who have information that can assist an inquiry should attend, in order to establish what happened.
Mr O’Connell said that he would be issuing witness summons for the eight civilian witnesses to attend the inquest and he would be requesting An Garda Siochana to assist to ensure that all attend the hearing which is adjourned until January 24th.
The inquest heard evidence from Commander Kevin Kingston of Macroom Fire Brigade who told how the brigade responded to an emergency call at 3.55am on May 2nd 2016 that two people were trapped in a house fire at a two storey terraced house in St Colman’s Park in Macroom. They arrived at the house at 4.03am to discover the fire well underway with heavy thick smoke in the building and they battled to bring it under control.
When it was safe to do so, two teams entered the building using breathing apparatus.
One team, Paul Lynch and Ian Wiseman, made their way upstairs where they found Mr O’Mahony between the bed and the window in a front bedroom while the second team of Jerry O’Leary and Aidan O’Driscoll recovered Mr Relihan from the hall between the kitchen and the sitting room.
Both men were removed from the house and local GP, Dr Peter Cronin, who had treated and knew them personally, identified both men before pronouncing them dead at the scene at 4.59am and 5.01am respectively before their bodies were removed to CUH for autopsies.
Mr Kingston said he believed the fire started in the kitchen area.
Garda technical expert Gda Kealan O’Keeffe said she was satisfied the fire started accidentally in the kitchen where it appeared a chip pan on an electric cooker caught fire.
Garda Patrick O’Leary said he arrived to discover Ryan Manning and Timmy Coleman had attempted a rescue but were forced back by the smoke.
Assistant state pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, said she carried out autopsies on both men and found Mr O’Mahony, who had a alcohol blood content of 247mgs, had a carbon monoxide level of 35pc and Mr Relihan, who had a blood alcohol level of 213mgs, had a 38pc carbon monoxide level.