‘No warning bells’ over foam system, inquest is told

Council fire officers say supplier told them specialist training was not required

Officials of Wicklow County Council fire service insisted yesterday they were told a compressed air foam system (Cafs) being used by two Bray firefighters when they died in September 2007 did not require specialist training.

Tadhg O'Shea and Joanne O'Connor, then and now both senior assistant chief fire officers with the council, told the inquest into the men's deaths this was the information given to them by the supplier when the system was delivered and deployed in July 2007. The information came from the Northern Ireland company that sold the fire tender with the Cafs system installed.

Ms O’Connor, who is responsible for training, said she was told that after a familiarisation talk to firefighters upon delivery, the system should be “played around with”. She said she was told by the supplier that, in advance of full training for which there was a delay, “you’ll be no worse off than any other county”.

Firefighters Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died on September 26th, 2007, fighting a blaze in a disused factory. Mr O'Shea and Ms O'Connor and colleagues of the dead men argue that they had effectively no training in Cafs, as a result of which they used it incorrectly and should not have been using it indoors.


Ms O’Connor said that at the time “there were no warning bells” regarding their use. “Do you not have to assume some level of responsibility?” asked William Hamilton, for the Murray family. “All I can say is I was not aware the system wasn’t to be used internally,” said Ms O’Connor.

Earlier, Mr O’Shea said he had not read research into the Cafs system that was available from the Department of the Environment before putting the system into use. “The view I took in this is that the department sanctioned it [the purchase of the system]. Why sanction it if it is not suitable?”

Mr Hamilton asked what training Mr O’Shaughnessy had received. “I don’t have the documentation with me,” said Mr O’Shea. “He didn’t receive any training whatsoever, Mr O’Shea, none, zero, zip, zilch,” Mr Hamilton said .

The inquest continues.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times