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Family calls for ‘silent killer’ detectors

By Michael McHugh

The family of a pensioner who died after being overcome by leaking fumes said poisonous gas detectors should be made mandatory in all houses with solid fuel burners in Northern Ireland.

‘Silent killer’ carbon monoxide escaping from a blocked cooker was blamed after David Magowan (74) was found slumped in his kitchen of his home in Carryduff, Co. Down last summer.

His wife Mary was only saved when her daughter Shirley Hunter Dodd called at her parents' house and could not get in.

Son Rodney insisted there should be legislation forcing people to install gas detectors.

After his father's inquest yesterday, Mr Magowan said: “It would be an incentive for anyone with solid fuel but it can also happen with open fires.

“I think it is important to raise that awareness but I don't have the ability to lobby parliament. But it would be a great help and very important for dad's memory.”

A pre-existing heart condition exacerbated the effect of the carbon monoxide on Mr Magowan.

A Rayburn Royal solid fuel cooker with a blockage in the flue was blamed. It had been some time since part of it had been cleared. The smoke was escaping around the hotplate and seal.

Mr Magowan said his father had been a great community worker, lobbying for ramps for disabled people.

“I am very proud of him, he was to the point but he would have had a lot of compassion and time for his family,” he added.

He said carbon monoxide detectors are available in supermarkets for under £10 but nobody is using them.

Coroner Brian Sherrard found carbon monoxide poisoning, aggravated by an underlying heart condition, caused the death.

“I think it is fortunate that Mrs Hunter Dodd appeared when she did and it may have had an even worse outcome had it not been for her intervention at the time that she did,” he said.

The doors and windows were closed because of the wet weather in July 2007.

Forensic scientist Kenneth Arnold inspected the cooker and said that could have been a critical factor.

“There is a possibility if the weather had been bad you might have had some material falling down the flue and causing the blockage, exacerbating the situation,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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