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September 23, 2011

Irish man dies from Spontaneous Human Combustion

Posted by daev

According to the The Irish Independent and The Irish Times, coroner Dr Kieran McLoughlin has found that a 76-year old Galway man, Michael Faherty, died of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) - the first documented case in Ireland, but NOT the first reported.

The Indo article never actually explains what Spontaneous Human Combustion is - merely finds that the authorities were able to find no other explanation for the death.

Assistant chief fire officer Gerry O'Malley said fire officers were satisfied that, after a thorough investigation, an open fire in Mr Faherty's fireplace was not the cause of the blaze which led to his death. No trace of an accelerant was found at the scene and there was no sign that anyone else had entered or left Mr Faherty's home at 64 Clareview Park, Ballybane, Galway city. (Irish Independent)

The Irish Times goes a little better, quoting Dr McLoughlin:

"This fire was thoroughly investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation," he said. (Irish Times)

The Galway City Tribune provides the gory details:

Pathologist, Dr Grace Callagy stated that, due to burning, Mr Faherty's stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, and some of his bones - the fire would need to be between 700-1,000°C to cremate bones - were not present, and that toxicology examinations could not be carried out on his blood or urine for the same reason. (Galway City Tribune)

According to Wikipedia, SHC "describes alleged cases of the burning of a living human body without an apparent external source of ignition" - so it seems to be a case of filling in a blank: Sherlock Holmes (fictionally) said; "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Blather wouldn't go this far - there may be thousands of SHC cases out there, and this may well be one of them, but in our experience, some of the "classic" cases suggest that the fire starts within the body - it's worth reading through the various possible hypotheses - and come to your own opinion on the matter.

As I hinted above, this is not the first reported cases - in 1997, described the discovery of Kerry man 76 year old John O'Connor:

"It was as if somebody had poured petrol into Jackie's lap," said local parish priest Father Patrick McCarthy. "From the knees down the bones were intact. The upper part, the chest and the head were very badly scorched through and through. The chair was burned, there was about five inches of two of the legs left there." (Kerry's Eye)

Irish Independent: Man died from spontaneous human combustion, inquest finds

Irish Times: Court finds pensioner's death in fire caused by spontaneous combustion

Galway City Tribune: Galway pensioner died from spontaneous combustion

Posted by daev at September 23, 2011 9:50 AM

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