December 22, 2010
Ballybane, Galway, Ireland
Michael Faherty (76) dies in his home; his death is officially ruled spontaneous combustion
Faherty was found in his sitting room, laying on his back with his head near an open fireplace, though the fireplace was determined not to have been the source of the fire. His body was “totally burnt,” and pathologist Dr. Grace Callagy noted Faherty’s stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, kidneys, liver, heart, and some bones had been obliterated by the fire. The fire would need to reach a temperature between 700 and 1,000ºC (about 1300 to 1800ºF) to cremate the bones. Despite the intense heat required to destroy Faherty’s body, the only parts of the room to be damaged by the flames were the ceiling directly above the body and the floor directly beneath. A packet of matches, unaffected by fire, was found on the fireplace mantle.
Gerard O’Callaghan of the divisional crime scene investigation unit reported, “The ‘seat’ of the fire was around the body of Mr Faherty, and confined to this area – the rest of the house was smoke damaged. I took samples of the fire debris and forwarded them to the forensic science laboratory at Garda headquarters in Dublin to establish the presence of accelerants (eg. petrol, diesel, paraffin oil) – there were none found – and I found no evidence to suggest any foul play had occurred.”
While no toxicology report could be conducted due to the state of Faherty’s body, the coroner Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin determined Faherty had no evidence of edema in his lungs nor signs of a hemorrhage. Additionally, Dr. Callagy found no carbon in Faherty’s trachea or in the lung sample she tested. “These suggest that he did not suffer from [smoke] inhalation injury and may not have been alive when the fire began,” Dr. Callagy reported. “The extensive nature of the burns sustained precludes determining the precise cause of death.”
Dr. MacLoughlin consulted medical textbooks to determine how Faherty died, and officially attributed Faherty’s death as spontaneous combustion, the complete or near complete destruction of a human body by a fire of unknown origin. “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,” MacLoughlin reported.
“Mystery spontaneous combustion in Ireland among world’s strangest deaths.” Irish Central. June 14, 2020. Accessed: December 22, 2020. https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/craic/mystery-spontaneous-combustion-ireland-worlds-strangest-deaths
Roznik, Sharon. “Spontaneous combustion is strange — and deadly.” The Reporter [Fond du Lac, Wisconsin]. September 11, 2019
Warren, David. “Spontaneous combustion.” The Ottawa Citizen. September 24, 2011
Geraghty, Dearbhla. “Galway pensioner died from spontaneous combustion.” September 23, 2011. Accessed: December 22, 2020 (archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20110924145534/http://www.galwaynews.ie/21713-galway-pensioner-died-spontaneous-combustion)
“‘First Irish case’ of death by spontaneous combustion.” BBC. September 23, 2011. Accessed: December 22, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-15032614