Saturday 24 March 2018

'There was no fire, I'll go to my grave saying it'

Welder testifies at inquest into deaths of firefighters

Brian Murray's wife Mary (centre), with daughter Fiona, family and friends
Brian Murray's wife Mary (centre), with daughter Fiona, family and friends
Aidan O'Neill
Mark O'Shaughnessy's girlfriend Hazel O'Brien
The firefighters who died: Mark O'Shaughnessy
Brian Murray

Gareth Naughton

A WELDER who carried out work at a disused factory shortly before it caught fire told an inquest there was "absolutely" no fire when he finished the job and that he would go to his grave saying that.

Aidan O'Neill was giving evidence at Dublin Coroner's Court at the combined inquest into the deaths of Bray firefighters Mark O'Shaughnessy (25) and Brian Murray (46), a father of 15.

The two men died while fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas off Dargle Road in Bray, Co Wicklow, on September 26, 2007.

Last month, Wicklow County Council was fined €355,000 for health and safety violations in relation to the incident.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that Mr O'Neill, a metal fabricator from Bray, had been asked by his friend Garreth Nolan to weld shut the main factory door because people had been dumping rubbish in the premises.

Mr Nolan told the court that his aunt, who owned the factory, had asked him to seal the door after he had noticed rubbish, including washing machines and beds, piled 5ft high in the building 10 days before. When asked if he had seen cans of fire accelerant in the rubbish, Mr Nolan said that he had not.

The two men went to the building to carry out the welding works at 10am on the morning of the fire. No metal sheet was used to prevent sparks escaping while the welding took place, Mr Nolan told the court under cross-examination.

Mr O'Neill said 90pc of the welding carried out happened on the outside of the building. He had welded a bracket on the inside and this had taken "22 seconds at most".

The immediate area had been cleared of rubbish. He said that when he finished inside he looked around to check and "absolutely nothing" was on fire. "There was no fire at that stage. I will go to my grave saying it. Absolutely not," he said.

When he checked the work from outside, he said, there was no smell or smoke.

Under cross-examination, Mr O'Neill said sparks would travel 3ft before extinguishing and would only bounce at high voltage. He was using a low voltage, he told the court.

Eamon O'Shaughnessy, who identified the body of his brother Mark, told the inquest that Mark had written a note detailing problems that he had identified with Bray Fire Service prior to his death.

He said he knew from talking to his brother that Bray Fire Service "had been badly run for many years". The note outlined problems his brother saw regarding the service. "These problems made Mark's job difficult," he said.

The inquest continues.

Irish Independent

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