Thursday 26 April 2018

Blaze that killed firefighters was like 'crashed 747'

Declan Brennan

A FIREFIGHTER has said that tackling a fatal blaze in Bray, Co Wicklow, was like working on a time bomb and that it looked as if a jumbo jet had crashed.

Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died fighting the fire at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Wicklow County Council, which runs the local fire service, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges relating to alleged criminal breaches under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 between September 1, 2005 and September 26, 2007.

Tony Horan, a firefighter with the Wicklow service, said he was in the first engine that went to the scene. He told Alex Owens, prosecuting: "It looked like a black wall. It looked like a 747 crashing.

"The smoke was almost like it was alive. It was going high, then going back to the ground.

"From the moment we got there, it was like working on a time bomb. People were screaming, telling us their houses were filling with smoke."

Mr Horan told the court that Mr Murray began trying to fight the fire by spraying an air-foam mix through the main door. Mr Murray and Mr O'Shaughnessy put on breathing apparatus and went in though this door. He said he heard firefighter Jim Maguire, who was in charge, tell them a number of times: "Just inside the door."

Another firefighter told the court he had not attended any course specifically in the use of a newly introduced air-foam system. Martin Lyons, a driver mechanic with the fire service, told Mr Owens that the fire engine used on that day was a new pump which used a new compressed air-foam system or CAFS.

Mr Lyons had completed a pump operators' course 18 months earlier, which involved the use of the water pumps. He had not attended any specific course for using CAFS.

He said that one night after the CAFS engine had been received, a man from the fire engine assemblers came into a regular weekly training session and demonstrated how to put the engine into CAFS mode.

Mr Lyons agreed with Aileen Donnelly, defending, that after this the brigade used CAFS to deal with a number of incidents but said CAFS had never been used at a building fire before the fatal fire.

He said that on the day of the Bray blaze he put the engine into CAFS mode and Mr O'Shaughnessy and Mr Murray took control of the hose.

He became worried about the two firefighters about 15 minutes after they had gone into the building.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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