ELDERLY WOMEN DIED AFTER FAULTY COOKER GASSED THEM TO DEATH

December 8, 2011

Two elderly Donegal women died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a grill door on a cooker was left closed.

Friends and neighbours Annie “Nana” Gallagher, 84, and Sarah ‘Sally’ McDyer, 79, were found dead at Mrs Gallagher’s home in Glenties on September 24th, 2009.

Mrs McDyer was found at the feet of Mrs Gallagher who was slumped in an armchair still holding a teacup by its handle.

The joint-inquest into the deaths of the two women was held in Letterkenny today before coroner Dr Denis McCauley.

It heard how Mary Gallagher, a daughter-in-law of one of the dead women, called in to check on her at her home in Derries, Glenties.

Mary Gallagher said she had called in to see Annie Gallagher as she called to her several times a day.

However the moment she saw her she said she knew there was something wrong and also smelled gas.

She initially thought that the dead woman had a sleeping bag wrapped around her legs but discovered later that it was the body of her friend Sarah McDyer.

She ran to alert her husband Joseph and also her children Joseph and Lisa who were outside their own home next door.

Both women were taken to the morgue at Letterkenny Coroner’s Court where pathologist Dr Gerry O’Dowd carried out autopsies on both.

Dr O’Dowd told the court that both women had died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

However much of the inquest dealt with claims surrounding allegations that the Flavel cooker which allegedly omitted the gas fumes was faulty.

It was revealed that there have now been up to six deaths between Ireland and England directly connected to similar cookers.

A fire investigation consultant Stephen Hammond called to the scene of the Donegal tragedy and carried out tests on behalf of the Commission for Energy Regulation.

By turning on the cooker with the grill door opened and closed he found the level of gas emitted exceeded European standards.

National Standards Authority officer Fergal Finn revealed his body and other bodies including the Commission for Energy Regulation and the National Consumer Agency to discuss the issue.

The group then asked independent investigators ‘Burgoynes’ were asked then to carry out a report to examine if models of cookers made by Beko and distributed by Glen Dimplex between 2006 and 2008 may be faulty.

This followed the death of a 21 year old French student Alexis Landry in Macroom in Co Cork on November 8th, 2008 which also involved a similar cooker.

In total it was estimated that there was a total of 5,375 cookers involved.

John Shine from the National Consumer Agency admitted it was not until December 23rd that it was deciced a product recall for the faulty cookers would be put in place.

However he admitted that the NCA did not have the power to ensure that companies followed up on all these recalls of which there are 100 on average each year in Ireland.

Mr Shine said product recall is notoriously difficult across EU and in some situation could be low single digits.

“In an ideal world anything less than 100% is bad. In this situation which led to fatalities you can never get an acceptable figure unless that is 100% or every single cooker. You will never get everyone for a variety of reasons.

“Some would have been on sale since 2003 and a certain number scrapped. There is difficulty in tracing consumers. In some situation consumers just don’t want to engage don’t want to know about it.”

Solicitor for the families of the two dead women Frank Dorrian revealed that it was not until the Donegal tragedy in September 2009 that the National Consumer Agency stepped up their efforts for the recall of the cookers.

He revealed that between the deaths on September 24th and February 2010 a total of 2,667 cookers were located across Ireland and of those 2,198 were modified.

Barrister for Beko, Peter Nolan, said it was his client who took the lead in trying to contact all cooker owners before the tragedies in Co Donegal.

He said they issued circulars, personal letters, television interviews, took out newspaper adverts and even set up a call-centre.

Mr Shine also admitted that the NCA received up to five updates from Beko in their attempt to recall all the cookers.

“What more could the company have done? I would have to put that the National Consumer Agency did not spend one penny and there was nothing more that could have ben done,” said Mr Nolan.

Mr Shine from the NCA added that 1,300 of the cookers were still unaccounted for in Ireland but did not know how many were still in use.

The inquest continues tomorrow.

At hearing.

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