Saturday 19 August 2017

'We need to be their voice' - Family of tragic young couple who died in house fire

Louise Wall (left) and the late Shane Wall with Louise's son Dylan
Louise Wall (left) and the late Shane Wall with Louise's son Dylan

Kathy Armstrong

The family of a young mum who died in a blaze at the Verdemont Apartments 15 years ago are demanding answers after another fire broke out at the same complex last week.

A coroner's report found a number of fire safety issues at the flat where Louise Wall (22) and her partner Mick Farrell tragically died on March 19 2002.

Louise Wall's family want answers
Louise Wall's family want answers

It was determined that three out of five air vents were blocked up, smoke alarms weren't fitted properly and the fire door in the kitchen was missing a part so it wasn't closing.

Almost 100 people were left homeless when a blaze reportedly started by a barbecue accident ripped through the properties in Blanchardstown in West Dublin but thankfully nobody was injured.

Louise's heartbroken sisters Gillian and Lisa Wall say they need to know if more could have been done to stop it spreading so rapidly.

Lisa (42) told Independent.ie: "You never get over it but you learn to live with it, you have to for each other and to try and live as best we can. 

Mick Farrell tragically died in the fire at Verdemont House
Mick Farrell tragically died in the fire at Verdemont House

"Last week's fire brought it all back again, that fright and pain, it made me remember things I'd blocked out for years.

"I wouldn't like somebody else to go through that, it's pure negligence - if that fire alarm had been connected they'd be alive.

"I wasn't able to cope with these feelings at that time but this fire is after erupting something, there's a lot of anger, I can't help but think it's been 15 years, has anything changed?"

The young couple had been out celebrating St Patrick's Day and in the early hours of the morning a blaze broke out in the kitchen.

Louise Wall was a devoted mum to her young son Dylan
Louise Wall was a devoted mum to her young son Dylan

As the air vents were blocked the fire extinguished itself but the heat melted a light fitting and the smoke and carbon monoxide travelled through the house because the fire door in the kitchen wasn't closing.

Read More: Gardai still in dark over couple's deaths

Louise was found slumped over the bath while Mick's remains were discovered in the bedroom.

They weren't found until the next evening when Louise's brother Shane came back with her son Dylan (3), who he had been babysitting overnight.

The late Shane Wall with Louise's son Dylan
The late Shane Wall with Louise's son Dylan

Gillian (41) echoed this, as she said: "The apartment was like a tomb that enclosed them, it was completely destroyed there was just soot everywhere.

"They should have had a safety tick list before people were allowed to live there."

Sadly Shane died by suicide on November 5 2004.

Lisa said: "He couldn't handle it, he stayed in my house for a while, he couldn't have a bath, he couldn't have the lights off, or sleep in darkness, he was just never the same, he tried a few times to take his own life before he managed to."

The family have never received a formal apology and they feel justice has not been served.

Gillian said: "We're angry, to this day nobody had taken responsibility for the death of my sister, the death of Mick Farrelll or the death or Shane - and he would be here if it wasn't for what happened.
"Our family would be complete and Dylan wouldn't have had to grow up without a mother."

Read More: Barbecue blaze that devastated Dublin apartment block leaves 100 people homeless

Gillian also paid tribute to her younger sister, saying: "I used to always call Louise my little angel, she wasn't just an angel to look at but she had a beautiful soul, she was very hard-working, she was an amazing mother, she had such loyalty.

Louise's sister Lisa Wall
Louise's sister Lisa Wall

"She was pretty career-driven, she'd just done all her computer courses and was looking to do secretarial work.

"You would never hear her complain or raise her voice, you couldn't have asked for a better mother, she just was so affectionate towards her little boy and it was beautiful to watch.

"She was my sister, my friend, my everything, I just miss her every day."

Lisa also said that she is sad that the "perfect" young couple's lives were cut short.

She said: "It seemed that she'd really got her foundation in life and things were starting to happen for her, they were so happy to get that place.

"I would have seen them having more kids, getting married, having careers and being happy, two families have been destroyed because of faults in that apartment, it's despicable."

Dublin Fire Brigade tend to last week's fire at the Verdemont apartments in Blanchardstown
Dublin Fire Brigade tend to last week's fire at the Verdemont apartments in Blanchardstown

Read More: Drone footage shows devastation after blaze rips through Dublin apartment block

The pair said not only do they want to know is safety regulations have been enforced since they lost Louise and Mick, but they want people to be more aware of the dangers of fire.
Gillian stressed: "We want people to be aware, we don't want anyone else to go through this or get hurt or killed.

"We want to know if this has been fixed in Verdemont, there's so many kids and families living there, they need to know.

"We want people to take note and be aware of their own hosues."

Lisa added: "We need to be their voice now, Louise and Mick didn't get a chance but we can raise awareness of fire safety."

Independent.ie has contacted Dublin City Council and O'Connor Property Management - who are now in charge of Verdemont Apartments - in relation to this story.

A spokeswoman for Fingal County Council said: "The Verdemont apartment complex was completed in approximately 2001. 

"Under the Building Control Act (1990) the system which operated until March 2014 was one of self-certification and placed responsibility on the owner / builder to comply with the Building Regulations, including the areas of fire safety and ventilation. 

"As such the owner/builder’s agent would have certified the construction as complete in accordance with the legislation.

"The Built Environment division of the council is actively involved in the enforcement of the Building Control Act, which includes the area of fire safety and ventilation. 

"As such any incident which results in loss or damage for Fingal residents is very significant to our work.  We await and will review official reports on the Verdemont fire when complete.”

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