Inquest hears of rescue attempt at North Kerry house fire which claimed life of popular priest

An inquest has heard of attempts to rescue a priest from an upstairs bedroom during a house fire in North Kerry.

84-year-old Fr Gearóid Ó Donnchadha died following a house fire at his premises, a two-storey dwelling, at Island Road, Fenit in the early hours of Monday, October 12th, 2015.

The inquest, at Tralee Courthouse, heard Fr Ó Donnchadha has just returned home from hospital and had a new text alert security system installed at the house by his nephew, Risteard Pierse.

In his deposition Risteard Pierse said in the early hours of Monday October 12th, 2015, he received a text alert from Fr Ó Donnchadha security system.

He went to his uncle’s house and could see smoke; Mr Pierse said he tried to go upstairs, but couldn’t, and called the emergency services.

Jimmy Browne, who’d also received a text alert, arrived and the men made another attempt to go upstairs, but their efforts were again thwarted by smoke.

Mr Pierse called Gerald O’Donnell of Fenit Lifeboat to bring oxygen to the scene.

Upon arriving Mr O’Donnell and on-call lifeboat mechanic Adrian O’Mahoney put a ladder to the wall and tried to break the upstairs window of the house.

Black smoke billowed out and the men were unable to access the bedroom.

Members of the fire brigade removed Fr Ó Donnchadha from the house; three paramedics attempted CPR but were unable to resuscitate him.

State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster deemed smoke inhalation, due to the house fire, as the immediate cause of death.

Coroner Helen Lucey conveyed her condolences to Fr Ó Donnchadha’s family saying he was very ‘well-known in Kerry and beyond as an academic of extensive interests’.

Risteard Pierse commended the professionalism of the emergency services; he said in life, through his sermons, his uncle bore a simple mantra, “love one another”.