Elderly lady died after blanket fell on blow heater

An elderly woman died after a blanket she was using fell onto an electric blow heater starting a fire, an inquest has heard.

Thursday, 29th March 2018, 8:28 am
A senior fire officer said the furniture and fittings in the Glengoland Gardens conservatory would have produced thick, toxic smoke

Agnes Gregg, 82, dropped the blanket when she got up from a sofa in the conservatory of her Dunmurry home to go to the kitchen on December 30, 2016.

Initially oblivious to the danger, Mrs Gregg became aware of thick, toxic smoke coming from the conservatory and made her way towards the front door to escape.

A senior fire officer who attended the scene at Glengoland Gardens told coroner Patrick McGurgan that the furniture and fittings in the conservatory would have produced thick, toxic smoke, and that Mrs Gregg appeared to have mistakenly entered the bathroom as she attempted to exit the property.

The burned out conservatory at Glengoland Gardens in Dunmurry

Station commander David Harbinson said Mrs Gregg, a married mother of two, was discovered in the bathroom by two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus.

The firefighters who continued with their search also discovered the pensioner’s pet dog which survived the tragedy.

One of the paramedics who treated Mrs Gregg said the patient was reluctant to leave her home despite having suffered smoke inhalation, and that she appeared disorientated.

Ian Sloan of the NI Ambulance Service said: “She was quite badly covered in soot - particularly around her mouth and nose.”

The burned out conservatory at Glengoland Gardens in Dunmurry

However, he added: “The lady was quite uncooperative and we couldn’t get a lot out of her.

“It took a good 20 to 25 minutes before we were able to get her out of the house.”

Mrs Gregg was eventually taken by ambulance to the RVH but was later transferred to the intensive care unit at the City Hospital.

Respiratory medicine consultant Dr Marshall Riley told the hearing in Belfast that Mrs Gregg would have suffered damage to her respiratory system, and that inhaling the toxic fumes made her more susceptible to the bacterial pneumonia she contracted while in intensive care.

Although assessed as being suitable for transfer back to a normal ward on January 12, having shown “some improvement,” Dr Riley said: “Throughout her stay [in hospital] she really was very unwell.”

Mrs Gregg suffered a fatal cardiorespiratory arrest in hospital on January 27.

The coroner said the inquest evidence highlighted the “danger of fire and smoke,” and “just how quickly a fire can start and can spread.”

Mr McGurgan added: “It clearly was the effects of smoke inhalation that proved fatal.”