Inquest into Bray fire deaths hears emotional testimony

Mark O’Shaughnessy and Brian Murray lost their lives in 2007

 Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray at the scene where they died in a fire at a disused building in Bray Co. Wickolow. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray at the scene where they died in a fire at a disused building in Bray Co. Wickolow. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 21:40

The inquest into the deaths of two Bray, Co Wicklow, fire fighters heard a detailed and emotion-charged description of the fire today and of the efforts to save the two men who died, and ultimately to recover their bodies.

Eddie McCann, the fire fighter who found the first body, that of 25-year-old Mark O’Shaughnessy, was giving evidence at Dublin Coroner’s Court into the events of that fateful day, September 26th 2007.

Following a lengthy deposition being read into the record, Mr McCann gave direct evidence to questions from the coroner.

At the fire, which was in a disused factory on Alelaide Terrace, Mr McCann and a colleague initially concentrated on cutting through two metal doors at opposite ends of the premises, while Mr O’Shaughnessy and the other firefighter who died, Brian Murray (46), entered the building from a centre-located corner door and fight the blaze from there.

When radio contact was lost with them, Mr McCann and a colleague, Tony Horan, went in to try to find them. The building was filled with thick black smoke. The heat was so intense, it caused some of the smoke to ignite spontaneously - a phenomenon fire fighters call “dancing angles”.

Mr McCann was using a Compressed Air Foam System (Cafs) in which he had not been trained. He used a spraying technique known as pulsing, short, sharp bursts that are effective with water but proved ineffective with foam inside the building.

“I tried to advance but you couldn’t; you couldn’t move for the heat,” Mr McCann told the coroner, Dr Brian Farrell. “So, we’d advance a tiny bit and you’d say, ‘ah Jesus Christ’ and you’d just go to mush, your brain is like. . . and I’m trying to get anyone on the radio - ‘Brian! Where are you? Where are you? Brian? Please answer! Answer’.”

Despite the difficult conditions, Mr McCann retreated from the building at least five times, but on each occasion went back in to try to save his colleagues in conditions that were worsening.

“It was getting worse because we had put more Cafs on the fire. The more you were putting it on, the hotter it was getting ... I remember saying to Tony, I said ‘this isn’t f***kin’ working’. I said ‘get me the [water] hoze-reel. . .’

“I kept thinking, this is actually killin’ us. By doing this, it’s killing me and it’s killing them [Mr Murray and Mr O’Shaughnessy]. I kept thinking how hot it is for me, what’s it like for them, down there? And I always remember being trained, and I still to this day, I think, I’d hate to be trapped in a fire, you know. That’s my worst fear - to be lying there, looking. And I kept thinking: he’s looking at me, he’s f**kin’. . . he can see me and I can’t see him.”