Bray firemen trained to use foam system, inquest hears

Senior fire official said no formal debrief took place after fatal factory blaze

Firefighters Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray who died in the factory fire in 2007.

Firefighters Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray who died in the factory fire in 2007.

Tue, May 6, 2014, 14:51

The two Bray fire fighters who died in September 2007 were trained in the use of a Compressed Air Foam System (Cafs) deployed by them on the day they died, a senior fire officer with Wicklow County Council asserted today at the inquest into their deaths.

Tadhg O’Shea, a Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said “his information” was that “no special training was required” in the use of the system.

Mr O’Shea was responsible for buying equipment for the fire service in the county. He said he had not read research into the Cafs system that was available from the Department of the Environment before putting the system into use. “The view I took in this is that the department sanctioned [the purchase of the system]. Why sanction it if it is not suitable.”

The two fire fighters, Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (26) died on September 26th while fighting a fire in a disused factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray. They were using Cafs but, the inquest has heard from other witnesses, they had received no formal training in its use beyond familiarisation with the machinery discharging the foam.

Mr O’Shea is the first senior fire officer to give evidence into the men’s deaths, either at the inquest of the criminal trial for health and safety at work breaches to which Wicklow County Council pleaded guilty in July 2013.

During his evidence at the inquest today, Mr O’Shea was asked repeatedly by lawyers and the conorer, Dr Brian Farrell, to speak up as his voice was inaudible to jurors.

“We were informed that no special training was required. Our information was that no special training was required,” said Mr O’Shea.

“What training did Mr O’Shaughnessy receive?” asked Mr Hamilton.

“I don’t have the documentation with me,” said Mr O’Shea.

“He didn’t receive any training whatsoever, Mr O’Shea,” said Mr Hamilton, “none, zero, zip, zilch.”

Earlier, Mr O’Shea was asked by Mr Hamilton why he did not go directly to the scene of the fire when alerted to it while in a hotel in Co Kildare but rather went first to Bray fire station.

“There’s no particular reason for it,” said Mr O’Shea.

Mr Hamilton reminded Mr O’Shea he had stated there was no debriefing after the fire and that he had not had conversations with other senior fire officers following the fire.

“Is that actually correct,” asked Mr Hamilton.

“Em, a formal discussion where we sat down to discuss the fire?” replied Mr O’Shea. “In that sense, no.”

“Do you recall going out for dinner the following evening on the 27th of September with [senior assistant chief fire officer] Ms [Joanne]O’Connor, and also with Mr [Jim]Dunphy, the [chief]Fire Officer, and Mr [Eddie] Sheehy, the County Manager, and Mr [Brian] Doyle [director of services at Wicklow County Council] and Mr Murphy, two other employees of Wicklow County Council, do you recall that?” asked Mr Hamilton.

“Yes, I recall that,” said Mr O’Shea.

“And is it your evidence here today that you didn’t discuss operational matters, what had happened and what had unfolded on the 26th?” asked Mr Hamilton.

“I would consider they were informal meetings of no consequence,” replied Mr O’Shea.

The inquest continues.