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Stardust victims last seen 6ft from emergency exit

The Stardust inquests have heard how three teenage victims of the fire were last seen six feet from an emergency exit as they tried to escape the blaze.

The proceedings into the deaths of the 48 people in the 1981 fire continued to hear about the extent of the victims’ injuries, their cause of death and the process of identification.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said it was “very difficult” for individual families at this point in the proceedings.

The court heard how 16-year-old Martina Keegan, her sister Mary Keegan, 19, and their friend Mary Kenny, also 19, all died as a result of rapid incapacitation due to the inhalation of fire fumes and heat.

The three had been in the club together that night and the court has heard how they were holding each other’s hands as they tried to escape. They were last seen, on the floor, six feet from exit number 4.

The inquests heard that Martina’s mother identified her daughter’s remains from the jewellery she was wearing, including a ring bearing ‘MK’ initials.

The court was told that the remains of her sister, Mary Keegan, were formally identified in the city morgue by a family friend from the silver choker necklace she had been wearing.

Consultant forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd told the court that the presence of “dense soot” in Mary Keegan’s airways showed there was very significant contamination.

The court heard that such was the significance of Mary Kenny’s injuries, she could not be identified by physical appearance and that it was her sister who confirmed her identity by the jewellery she was wearing, including a ring that she had brought her sister a few weeks earlier.

Noting the three teenage friends were last seen on the floor, Seán Guerin SC, representing families of the victims, said: “That’s how close they came to making it safely out.”

Later, Dr Richard Shepherd told the court that “time was crucial” in safely getting out of such a fire.

Replying to questions from Brenda Campbell, KC, representing families of the victims, he said: “The longer the exposure the greater the damage, the greater the risk of unconsciousness, the greater the risk of death.

“So time is absolutely crucial in these situations and any obstruction, any slowing down in the exit…is going to cause great problems for people.”

“And greater risk of death,” said Ms Campbell.

“Absolutely,” replied Dr Shepherd.

Dr Shepherd also said the ability to make decisions and to strive to escape would both decline as the toxic gases and lack of oxygen affected the body.

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