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Teenage girl killed in house fire left 'help me' voicemail

Published 14/11/2016

Ellen Finnegan
Ellen Finnegan
An outpouring of grief at Castlewellan among the school friends of much-loved teenager Ellen Finnegan (pictured) who died in a fire at her home in Castlewellan
Firefighters found Miss Finnegan's body in the bedroom of the house

A teenager phoned a friend for help before she died in a house fire, an inquest was told.

Ellen Finnegan, 18, from Castlewellan, Co Down, left a voicemail with her sleeping friend at around 2.30am. T he young student sounded calm but drunk in the early-morning recording last winter, police said.

A cigarette or an electrical appliance started the blaze which was discovered shortly after 4am, a coroner heard.

Her last known words were in the voicemail which said: "Help me."

Miss Finnegan's father, Bartley Finnegan, was not at their Lower Square home and had been due to go skiing the following day.

She was three-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit, forensic analysis revealed, following a night out at Quinn's Bar in Newcastle last January.

A tearful Nicole Keenan said she had driven Miss Finnegan home and some others had helped carry her into the house.

She was left at the top of the stairs wrapped up with a duvet and pillow after she would not stay in bed. Sara Gorman discovered the voicemail left on her phone the following morning.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said: "Sadly this case does highlight the very grave risks involved when alcohol is involved, in particular heavy consumption of alcohol.

"I hope that lessons can be learned."

There was no smoke alarm and the blaze was discovered by a Roads Service worker out gritting, who called emergency services.

Firefighters found Miss Finnegan's body in the bedroom of the house. She died from smoke inhalation, a pathologist's report revealed.

A senior firefighter said he was unable to determine why the blaze started. There was intense burning to the floor in the doorway of the bedroom where Miss Finnegan was found.

The Funeral of Ellen Finnegan takes place at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan, Co Down on Tuesday.
Ellen Finnegan died in a blaze in her flat above the family's butcher's shop on Saturday.
Pacemaker Press 19/1/2016
The Funeral of Ellen Finnegan takes place at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan, Co Down on Tuesday. Ellen Finnegan died in a blaze in her flat above the family's butcher's shop on Saturday. Pacemaker Press 19/1/2016
Bartley Finnegan (right) carries the coffin of his daughter Ellen who died in a house fire over the weekend
The Funeral of Ellen Finnegan takes place at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan, Co Down on Tuesday. Ellen Finnegan died in a blaze in her flat above the family's butcher's shop on Saturday. Pacemaker Press 19/1/2016
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
The Funeral of Ellen Finnegan takes place at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan, Co Down on Tuesday. Ellen Finnegan died in a blaze in her flat above the family's butcher's shop on Saturday. Pacemaker Press 19/1/2016
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
The Funeral of Ellen Finnegan takes place at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan, Co Down on Tuesday. Ellen Finnegan died in a blaze in her flat above the family's butcher's shop on Saturday. Pacemaker Press 19/1/2016
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is heald at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for 18 year old Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village.
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com
Requiem Mass is held at St Malachy's Church, Castlewellan for Ellen who died in a fire at her house in the Co. Down village. Picture: Matt Mackey - Presseye.com

An electric heater was in the house, Mr Finnegan said.

Forensic scientist Julian Halligan was unable to be definitive about the cause but suggested it may have been from an electrical heater plugged into a hallway socket or careless disposal of cigarettes.

He said the most extensive damage was in the doorway area of one of the bedrooms, where the fire had burned through the floor into the ceiling of a butcher's shop below.

A box of matches was found in the bathroom. But Ms Keenan said her friend left her cigarettes in her car.

Parts from an electrical appliance were recovered.

Mr Halligan could find no electrical appliances plugged in but there was a lead on the landing which had been broken and burned away.

The coroner said Miss Finnegan died from smoke inhalation during the house fire.

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