Churchill man, 92, died in housefire after electricity knocked out by storm

A 92-year-old man died after he tried to light a fire at his farmhouse when a storm knocked out his heating system.

John Harley died at his home at Ardachrinn, Churchill on December 8th, 2021.

An inquest held into Mr Harley’s death at Letterkenny Courthouse heard how a Status Red weather storm had knocked out Mr Harley’s electricity and may have also knocked out his power supply to his heating system.

Mr Harley lived alone but was visited six times a day by carers and members of his family.

The court was told that a home help arrived at Mr Harley’s home at 7.40am on the morning of December 8th, 2021.

The woman, who asked not to be identified by the inquest, smelled smoke as she opened the door and dropped down low to the floor and that Mr Harley’s bedroom door was open.

The woman said Mr Harley lying on the ground but there was nothing she could do and she had to leave the house again as the smoking was consuming her.

The woman called the emergency services immediately.

The home-help told the inquest that they had raised the issue of Mr Harley lighting fires before as smoke had often billowed out of his house before.

When questioned by coroner Dr Denis McCauley, the woman said that Mr Harley was mobile when he used a zimmer-frame but that he was frail and sometimes unsteady on his feet.

Some days he could be great but other days he could be a little confused, the woman said.

She agreed that the pensioner loved the fire being on and that “it was a comfort to him.”

She added that she had tried to get down on her hands and knees to reach Mr Harley but the only thing that she could see was on fire was Mr Harley himself.

Coroner Dr McCauley praised the woman and said that she “went and above and beyond” what was expected of her.

A close relative of the late Mr Harley, who also asked not to be name din the inquest, said he called to see him the night before he died.

The man said he had been feeding animals at Glendowan and called in to see Mr Harley and that he told him to stay in bed as the weather forecast was bad.

The man said he received a phonecall the following day to say that Mr Harley had passed away following a housefire and that he went and formally identified him.

The man thanked the home help carers and also the emergency services for doing all they could to try and save Mr Harley.

Garda Mark Gannon of Milford Garda Station said he was on duty on the morning that Mr Harley was found dead at his home.

He said a call had been made to the emergency services at 7.40am and he arrived at the two storey farmhouse at 8.30am and was told a male had passed away.

Advanced paramedic Declan Murrin told Gardai that he had pronounced the death of the man.

Garda Gannon said there was nothing to suggest the fire was suspicious and that he believed it was an accident.

He added that the family of Mr Harley suggested an anorak had been missing and that he may have worn it and that it for more heat.

Garda Gannon confirmed there had been a red weather warning the previous evening and the electricity went out and that Mr Harley’s heating may not have kicked it.

He said Mr Harley had been wearing wooly pyjamas and that this clothing could have encouraged the fire revealing that there was no evidence of fire anywhere else in the room but on the victim.

Pathologist Dr Gerry O’Dowd gave evidence of extreme burning to the late Mr Harley but said there was no evidence of carbon monoxide in body.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley told Mr Harley’s family that he would have died quickly and this was the important thing, saying he either died quickly from the fire or his heart may have given in.

Dr McCauley said the cause of death was from extensive burns as a result of a housefire.

He added that the family should remember that most of the damage caused to Mr Harley happened to him after he had died which was very important to think of when they are thinking of John.

Churchill man, 92, died in housefire after electricity knocked out by storm was last modified: March 5th, 2024 by Staff Writer

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