THE death of a Burnley grandmother killed when poisonous fumes from her coal-burning fire swamped her living room has prompted calls for people to have their heating appliances checked.

Elizabeth Mulrooney’s daughter Deborah Hayes told an inquest the smell of smoke had been instantly noticeable when she called at her mother’s home in Haven Street.

Clerical assistant Mrs Hayes had become worried after family members had been unable to phone her mother, who was usually an early riser, She discovered her mother collapsed in her living room and contacted the emergency services, Burnley Coroner’s Court heard.

An investigation and post mortem examination revealed that Mrs Mulrooney, 75, died as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, on August 11 last year.

Heating engineer Thomas Holdsworth, who inspected the fireplace following her death, said either the flue or the fire, a Rayburn coal heater, had become blocked.

He added: “There was some staining around the room which points to soot either coming back into the room, or moisture, which you can get when fumes spill back from a fire.

“I then proceeded to test the appliance. It did not take away any of the fumes while I was on site.”

The inquest heard that Mrs Mulrooney had been staying with her daughter, after her husband suffered a stroke, but had recently returned to live at her Haven Street home.

Mrs Hayes said she had been contacted by another family member, concerned that Mrs Mulrooney could not be telephoned.

The daughter visited her mother’s home at around 8.45am and let herself into the house with her own key.

She said: “I noticed a strong smell of smoke but no signs of any fire having been lit. I found her in the armchair next to the television.”

Forensic scientist Stanley Porter found a ‘fatal level’ of carbon monoxide in lung tissue, pathologist Dr Walid Salman told the inquest, which it is believed caused Mrs Mulrooney’s death.

Mrs Hayes added that she was “kicking herself” for not noticing the smoke problem earlier.

“To be quite honest, and I know this is naïve, but it is a coal fire and you don’t relate it to anything like carbon monoxide to it because that makes you think of gas fires,” she added.

East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor, recording an accidental verdict, said: “This is one of those tragedies where, as you say, you never thought about suspecting the chimney, or the flue.”

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal.

According to the Health and Safety Executive around 20 people each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues not being properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated.

Early symptoms to look out for include tiredness, headaches, nausea and chest pains. A spokesman for HSE said people with coal fires and gas appliances should make sure they were checked regularly to ensure they were adequately ventilated.

He said: “We advise that if you suspect your appliance is giving out excess carbon monoxide you should switch the appliance off, ventilate the room and visit your GP as a matter of urgency.

“HSE strongly recommends the use of CO alarms as one useful precaution to give advance warning of CO in property.”