A DEVOTED Enniskillen couple died as a result of a house fire caused by a lit cigarette falling on a bedroom carpet just days after Christmas last, a coroner has ruled.
The inquest into the tragic deaths of 66-year-old Daphne Reid (nee Johnston) and 70-year-old Franklin Reid was held at Enniskillen Courthouse on Monday by Coroner Joe McCrisken, during which the sad events of the night of December 27 last were recalled.
The inquest heard how the Mrs Reid, a retired library administrator originally from Ballinamallard, and her husband Mr Reid, a retired lorry driver from Florencecourt, were enjoying some sociable post-Christmas drinks at their home in Silverhill Park and were “chatty and happy” before the fire broke out in a bedroom, shortly before midnight.
The fire was discovered when Mrs Reid asked their friend Ellen Stewart, who was visiting, to check on Mr Reid who had gone to bed and was calling out. When Ms Stewart opened the door of the bedroom she was met with a wall of thick smoke. Ms Stewart immediately called 999 and then left the house to seek the help of another neighbour.
The neighbour explained the couple referred to each other by nicknames “mammy” and “daddy.” This caused some confusion when Mrs Reid herself called 999 a short time later from within the house, as the police controller heard her refer to “daddy.” This led the police to believe there may be children inside the house.
When the police arrived smoke was already coming from the roof and seams of the house. Two officers attempted to enter the house through the back door. However, due to the thick smoke and “impossible” visibility, neither could make it in more than several metres. The officers then began smashing windows to alleviate the smoke and flames within.
The fire crews arrived just minutes later and officers broke down the front door using a sledge hammer.
Enniskillen Fire Station station commander Padraig McKeon entered the house and found Mr Reid sitting on the floor against the sofa. He carried him from the house and CPR was carried out on him.
Mrs Reid’s body was found lying in the doorway of the bedroom where her husband had been. The coroner, Mr McCrisken, said it appeared Mrs Reid had rescued her husband then, for a reason he said would never be known, had returned to the bedroom. Mr McCrisken ruled her cause of death as smoke inhalation and burns.
Her husband was taken to the South West Acute Hospital, where he passed away from his injuries on January 4. Mr McCrisken ruled he died as a result of brain injury caused by cardiac arrest, smoke inhalation and carbon-monoxide poisoning, which he said were all related to each other.
Referring to forensic reports, Mr McCrisken said the cause of the fire was likely a lit cigarette falling on the bedroom carpet.
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