Some emergency calls to Bray fire station ‘vetted’, inquest hears

Practice has long been bone of contention to firefighters

Firefighters Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray at the scene where they died in a fire at a disused building in Bray, Co Wicklow, in September 2007. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Firefighters Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray at the scene where they died in a fire at a disused building in Bray, Co Wicklow, in September 2007. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 22:38

Some emergency calls to Bray Fire Station were “vetted” before help was dispatched, the inquest into the death of the Bray firefighters, Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (25), has heard.

The practice has long been a bone of contention to fire fighters who argue that emergency responders should always be dispatched once the watch room recipient of the call is satisfied that the caller is genuine. A former watch room operator, Michael Baynes, gave evidence today and was asked first by the coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, whether call vetting existed.

“Yeah, that’s correct, yeah,” said Mr Baynes. “It was a system that was in place since I started there in September 1991 until 2007 when the fire happened. It was basically used when there was minor fires. A senior fire officer would check first if the fire needed a full crew.”

Equipment in the watch room for recording calls for analysis after events was not working on the 26th – neither the tape nor the back up hard drive. Mr Baynes said this was known; he had informed “assistant chief fire officer Tadhg O’Shea” about this.

On the day of the fire and after events had concluded, another senior assistant chief fire officer, Joanne O’Connor asked him to check the recording machine when he came on duty later.

Mr Baynes said: “When I went to the tapes, there was nothing, there was no in-coming calls, there was no radio alerts, there was bleepers, there was no radio conversations. . . I nearly died of a heart attack – Jesus, where is it?”

Christopher Large a former fire fighter in several English brigades and now an advocate for the use of the Compressed Air Foam System (Cafs) for dealing with fires. Mr Large had been hired by Wicklow County Council specifically to rebut the criminal case it was facing last year arising from the deaths.

Mr Large said he felt there were “inadequacies”, “inconsistencies”, and “inaccuracies” in the work of Dr Peter Mansi, a forensic fire investigator retained by the Health and Safety Authority which, along with the Garda, gathered evidence that led to the criminal case against the Council.

He disagreed with Dr Mansi’s theory that “a partial flashover” was the probable significant event in the fire that contributed to the men’s deaths. He on the other hand had come to the hypothesis that the two fire fighters, who had been ordered to remain just inside the building but moved forward, disturbing some flammable liquid which then engulfed them and killed them.