Welder at factory where firemen died adamant there was no fire when he left
Inquest hears he was welding a door shut to prevent illegal dumping
Mary Murray (centre) widow of Brian Murray, accompanied by her family, leaves Dublin Coroner’s Court yesterday after the first day of the inquest into the deaths of firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy. Photograph: Collins Courts.
A welder who carried out work on the door of a factory in Bray, Co Wicklow, on the morning a blaze there took the lives of two firemen said he would go to his grave saying there was no fire when he left the site.
Aidan O’Neill from Bray agreed the welding equipment he used had caused sparks, but said it was low voltage, the sparks were small and they fell to the ground.
He only worked for a short time inside the building, where a large amount of rubbish had been dumped, and 90 per cent of the welding was on the outside, he said. Everything was fine when he left.
“There was no fire at that stage, I’ll go to my grave saying it,” he said.
Mr O’Neill was giving evidence at the inquest of Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (26), who died on September 26th, 2007, fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas off the Dargle Road.
The inquest had been adjourned pending criminal proceedings. Wicklow County Council was fined €355,000 for criminal health and safety violations last month.
Under cross-examination, Mr O’Neill conceded his fire extinguisher was in the back of his van and he did not have a protective fire blanket or a metal sheet to partition the welding area from its surroundings. He had expected that the work would be on the outside of the building, he said.
Gareth Nolan from Bray, whose aunt owned the factory, said he attended with Mr O’Neill at 10am on the day of the fire. The door was being welded to prevent further illegal dumping. The factory contained “beds, chairs, cookers, washing machines and old bikes” as well as household waste piled up to 5ft high, Mr Nolan said. He said they checked the factory before leaving at about 10.30am. He got a call from his aunt at 11.43am to tell him about the fire.
Under cross-examination, he said he was positive his aunt had not asked him to remove the rubbish as well as welding the factory door.
A deposition read out at the inquest from Eamon O’Shaughnessy, brother of Mark, said he saw a note on the coffee table at his brother’s home on the day before he died. He found it in his brother’s locker at Bray Fire Station after his death.
He knew from talking to his brother that “Bray Fire Station was run badly for many years”.
The note outlined the problems, Mr O’Shaughnessy’s deposition said, and they “made Mark’s job difficult”.
They also made it more hazardous. Luán Ó Braonáin, for Wicklow County Council, interrupted the reading of the deposition and raised concerns that he had not seen a copy. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell agreed further details from it would be discussed later in the inquest.
Also giving evidence, environmental supervisor with Bray Town Council Paul Wogan said he had investigated rubbish dumping at the factory on July 19th, 2007.
He was concerned it would “draw young rats” from the nearby river. He was assured the rubbish would be cleaned up. Asked why he hadn’t followed up on the complaint, he said he “didn’t get around to it”.