Wicklow County Council fined €355,000 over firemen deaths
Authority pleaded guilty to three charges related to deaths of two men in 2007
The fire-damaged disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray, Co Wicklow where firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaugnessy died in 2007. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/The Irish Times
Firefighters Mark O’Shaugnessy (left) and Brian Murray who died in a fire at a disused building in Bray Co Wicklow in September 2007. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A court has fined Wicklow County Council €355,000 plus legal costs of nearly €96,000 for criminal health and safety violations relating to a warehouse blaze in which two fire-fighters died.
Last July, in the middle of a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the council guilty pleaded guilty to three charges of health and safety breaches. These pleas were accepted by the State who withdrew a charge alleging that one of these breaches had caused the deaths of the two men.
Judge Desmond Hogan described the system of control and co-ordination in place at Bray Fire Station’s watch room as “antiquated, inefficient and flawed” and said that the training provided to fire-fighters was “peripheral and inadequate”.
The training referred to was specifically around the purchase of a fire engine which used a new foam system to put fires out and which was used on the day of the fatal fire.
He said this was the most serious breach because “this training related to a machine to be used in actual fire fighting, a most dangerous and hazardous job for those involved”.
“The results of that lack of training were evident on the day in question; the fire tender was not properly connected to the fire hydrant and that resulted in improper ratio of foam to water which resulted in impeding the fire-fighters using the system,” he said.
He imposed a fine of €300,000 in relation to this breach.
A fine of €50,000 was imposed for the council’s failure to provide an effective system of central control and communications. The trial heard there were issues on the day of the fatal fire with marshalling support engines from neighbouring fire stations.
Two alert calls to Greystones Fire Station by Bray Fire Station requesting assistance to deal with a fatal fire were not received. At one stage three Bray fire fighters were waiting at the watch room in Bray to attend the fire but had no driver to take an engine out.
The judge said: “The watch room procedures were old and out of date and not sufficient for the purposes they were required, that information was coordinated and that fire-fighters could be turned out efficiently.”
He said the least serious breach related to the council’s failure to review the safety statement. “The council may have being lulled into a sense of false security under the umbrella of work being done by the Department of the Environment.”