Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner died in fire-lighting mishap

Smoke killed dementia sufferer who forgot flue had been blocked up

By Patrice Dougan

A pensioner died alongside his pet dog after attempting to light a coal fire in an electric fireplace.

Patrick Lavery (71) was overcome by smoke and toxic gases in his Dunloy, Co Antrim, home on the night of April 22, 2010.

Workers for the Housing Executive had fitted a new electric fireplace into his home that day.

At the inquest into his death, coroner Suzanne Anderson was told Mr Lavery had a history of alcohol abuse and had begun to show signs of dementia.

His sister Ann told police at the time of his death that he had talked about still living in Belfast despite having lived in Dunloy for 10 years.

On the day of his death Mr Lavery - who once served in the Royal Navy and also worked for Michelin Tyres - had been at his sister's house as workmen began fitting a central heating system at his bungalow in Braeside Park.

They removed a coal fireplace and blocked the chimney flue, replacing it with an electric fire.

The next morning when a care support worker called at his home there was no answer, and police were called to the scene.

Constable Alan McGowan described how he found Mr Lavery in a bed in the living room "completely covered in soot". His pet Jack Russell dog Tiny was found dead on the floor beside him.

Assistant state pathologist Peter Ingram said Mr Lavery showed evidence of breathing in smoke.

While his alcohol level had been "low", the deadly gases carbon monoxide and cyanide were found in his bloodstream.

Dr Ingram said the carbon monoxide levels were so high it "in itself would have proved fatal". The cyanide level was "toxic".

Coroner Anderson concluded death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation.

Mr Lavery's brother, Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Danny Lavery, thanked the PSNI, Fire and Rescue Service and the medical professionals "for their help and service on that day".

He described his brother's death as a "tragic accident".

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