Sunday 25 February 2018

Council plea over fire deaths fine

Mary Murray, the widow of firefighter Brian Murray, leaves Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court
Mary Murray, the widow of firefighter Brian Murray, leaves Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court

A cash-strapped council has pleaded with a judge not to hit it with a three million euro fine for health and safety violations after the deaths of two firefighters on duty.

Father-of-15 Brian Murray, 46, and 26-year-old Mark O'Shaughnessy were killed fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Wicklow County Council last month pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety laws and face a hefty fine of up to three million euros.

Aileen Donnelly, senior counsel, said the men's deaths were a tragedy but added it had been accepted by the prosecution that they did not die as a consequence of the council's actions.

Appealing against the maximum fine, she told Judge Desmond Hogan the council's budget had been cut by 29% since 2008 when the country went through "extraordinary economic circumstances".

The families of the retained firemen were in Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court as sentencing was adjourned until October 25.

They have always maintained the men's deaths were not the result of an accident. No charges were ever brought against any named individual, but the council Initially faced four counts of breaches of health and safety laws after a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Authority (HAS) and gardai.

On the eighth day of a criminal trial Wickow County Council entered three guilty pleas when the Director of Public Prosecutions amended the charges to exclude a claim that the safety breaches had caused the deaths of the two men.

Harrowing evidence from firefighters who attended the fatal blaze compared it to a time bomb, an incinerator, and like a 747 aeroplane crash. The trial had also heard that six firefighters were sent to the incident, but there should have been twice that number.

The council has admitted it failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of firefighters by not sending a second fire tender to the industrial fire and failed to have an adequate central command system to call for back up crews. It also admitted it failed to review and update a safety statement - dated back to 1994 - and that the council failed to provide adequate training on a new compressed air foam system.

Press Association

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