Firefighters inquest hears of can being moved

Garda crime investigator tells inquest that he took 93 photographs at the scene

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze in 2007 in which two firefighters died

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze in 2007 in which two firefighters died

Fri, May 2, 2014, 01:00

A tin can at the centre of assertions as to the development of a fire in which two Bray, Co Wicklow, firefighters died in 2007 was moved several times in the hours immediately after the blaze and also the following day, the inquest into the men’s deaths heard yesterday.

The can was moved by individuals examining the cause of the fire, including a Health and Safety Authority inspector Kevin Broderick and an investigator, Michael Slattery, acting on behalf of Wicklow County Council and who was working on the site with senior Wicklow fire service officers who handled the can.

It may also have been disturbed by firefighters dousing embers in the aftermath of the blaze proper.

Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (26), died on September 26th, 2007, while fighting a blaze at a disused factory in the north Wicklow town.

The can, an upright five-litre-type metal container that may have held liquid at the time of the blaze and which had on it a label for ‘Granyte’, a lacquer-type flammable liquid, has been the focus of intense examination by lawyers for the families of the dead men.

Mr Slattery, in evidence and in a report written for Wicklow County Council, has suggested the contents of the can were likely responsible for a rapid acceleration of the blaze, incapacitating the firefighters.

Photograph of fire scene
At the last full day’s sitting of the inquest on March 6th, Mr Slattery was giving evidence and referring to a photograph of the fire scene, which showed the can and which he said he took on September 27th, the day after the fire.

There was an intervention by Det Garda Maurice Hickey, the lead Garda investigator of the fire which led to the council being convicted in the Circuit Criminal Court, as he produced a photograph, taken on September 26th after the blaze had been extinguished and in which the can was not visible.

The contrast surprised and prompted the coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, to adjourn the inquest, requesting the parties to clarify matters.

When the inquest resumed yesterday, evidence was heard from two Garda forensic scenes of crime investigators, Garda Stephen Heffernan and Garda Sgt Finbar Shea.

Garda Heffernan said that 93 photographs had been taken by him at the scene; 13 of which included the dead men or parts of their equipment and 80 of which were general views of the area of the fire and the exterior.

Some of them showed the tin can on a pile of rubbish close to the spot, but not at it, where Mr Slattery’s later photograph showed it.