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by on 2011/09/24

Please Be Careful

Michael Faherty (Micheal O Fatharta, 1934–2010) was found burned to death in the living room of his home at Clareview Park, Ballybane, Galway on 2010.12.22

West Galway Coroner, Dr Ciaran McLoughlin:

“This fire was thoroughly investigated and I’m left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation.”

In the early hours of 2010.12.22, Faherty’s neighbour, a Mr Mannion, was awoken by the sound of his smoke alarm. Going outside, he found heavy smoke coming from Mr Faherty’s house.

The house was later searched by forensic experts from the Gardai and the fire service. Mr Faherty’s body was found, lying on his back. His head was by an open fireplace, but the fire had been entirely confined to the sitting room, and the only damage found was to the totally burnt body, and the ceiling above and the floor beneath him.

No trace of any accelerants were found and there was nothing to suggest foul play had taken place.

Assistant chief fire officer Gerry O’Malley told the inquest into the death that after a thorough investigation, fire officers were satisfied that the open fire was not the cause of the blaze which led to Faherty’s death.

Galway pensioner died from spontaneous combustion

Mystery death is blamed on ‘inexplicable’ phenomenon

By Dearbhla Geraghty, Galway City Tribune, 2011.09.23

The inquiry into the death of a 76 years old man found badly burned in his home just before Christmas last year, concluded yesterday that he had died of the unusual phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion.

Photographs taken in the aftermath of the fire at the home of Michael Faherty of Clareview Park, Ballybane, show a packet of matches sitting on the mantelpiece, which had escaped damage – as had most of the sitting room, where he was found.

Garda Gerard O’Callaghan of the divisional crime scene investigation unit who visited the preserved scene told the Inquest: “The ‘seat’ of the fire was around the body of Mr Faherty, and confined to this area – the rest of the house was smoke damaged.

“I took samples of the fire debris and forwarded them to the forensic science laboratory at Garda headquarters in Dublin to establish the presence of accelerants (eg. petrol, diesel, paraffin oil) – there were none found – and I found no evidence to suggest any foul play had occurred.”

The Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, noted from the photographs taken by the senior Garda that there were items such as matches, a mobile phone, and a razor very obviously untouched by fire. He asked Garda O’Callaghan if he had ever witnessed anything like this before, and the reply was a firm ‘no’.

Pathologist, Dr Grace Callagy stated that, due to burning, Mr Faherty’s stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, and some of his bones – the fire would need to be between 700-1,000°C to cremate bones – were not present, and that toxicology examinations could not be carried out on his blood or urine for the same reason.

She said, however, that there was no evidence of oedema in the lung – which the coroner explained meant that he did not suffer a heart attack – and there was no evidence of a haemorrhage.

Significantly, Dr Callagy found no carbon material/soot in his trachea or a sample from his lung. “These suggest that he did not suffer from inhalation (smoke) injury and may not have been alive when the fire began,” she stated.

“The extensive nature of the burns sustained precludes determining the precise cause of death.”

Dr MacLoughlin told Mr Faherty’s family that he had given a lot of consideration to that very question. “I’d say that the death was thoroughly investigated by the most experienced fire experts in the country, and I’m of the view that it fits in with spontaneous combustion, for which there is no scientific explanation,” he said.

Dr MacLoughlin said afterwards that this was the first such case that he had come across in his 25 years as coroner for West Galway.

Man died from spontaneous human combustion, inquest finds

The Independent (Ireland), 2011.09.23

A man who burnt to death in his own home died from spontaneous human combustion.

‘First Irish case’ of death by spontaneous combustion

BBC News, 2011.09.23

A man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous combustion, an Irish coroner has ruled.

Irish pensioner ‘died of spontaneous human combustion’

The Telegraph (UK) 2011.09.23

A pensioner whose body was found totally burned died of spontaneous human combustion, a coroner has ruled.

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