‘Untimely’ death of ‘much loved’ father

An inquest into the “untimely” death of an 84-year-old Dungiven man heard yesterday of the dramatic efforts made to rescue the retired farmer from a house fire.

Father-of-seven, Patrick Gerard McNicholl was found dead in his Coolnasallagh Road home on May 5, 2011.

At his inquest at Derry Court yesterday, Coroner Suzanne Anderson heard evidence from a number of people, including Mr. McNicholl’s family, the PSNI, and the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

The inquest heard that at 12.45pm on May 5, Mr. McNicholl’s daughter-in-law called with him to give him his medication and light the fire.

Two care workers who attended Mr. McNicholl daily were already at the house, where they had brought Mr. McNicholl from his bed to the living room to give him lunch. They said Mr. McNicholl was in his “usual form” that day and when they left him, just before 1pm, he was in the chair in the living room, near the range, having lunch and watching television.

The inquest heard Mr. McNicholl’s daughter-in-law was returning to his house, around 1.30pm, to make him tea when she saw smoke coming from the living room window.

She looked into the living room to see if she could see Mr. McNicholl, but was unable to.

She could hear crackling, and saw thick smoke.

The inquest heard the relative was able to get into the room and put her hand on Mr. McNicholl’s cheeks, and realised he was dead.

The phone in the house was not working, but the relative managed to raise the alarm through the use of a car horn. Emergency services arrived on scene, including the Fire Service, who were there within four minutes, the inquest heard.

Mr. McNicholl died from smoke inhalation and Coroner Anderson ruled the fire started as a result of an electric fault in the meter cupboard.

Coroner Anderson said Mr. McNicholl’s death was 
“tragic and untimely” and “a terrible shock to all his family”.

She extended her condolences to the McNicholl family.

Condolences were also offered on behalf of NIE to the McNicholl family on the death of a “very much loved father”.