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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Queen Elizabeth to honour hero firefighter

A firefighter who helped keep a dying friend alive long enough to say his family farewells is to be honoured for his heroics by Queen Elizabeth, it was revealed today.

Gavin Miller battled flames in the Gorteen House Hotel near Limavady to rescue 50-year-old Joe McCloskey, who fell through a storeroom roof and suffered severe burns.

The firefighter's bravery in November 2003 gave the father-of-five a few hours in hospital, time for his wife and kids to say goodbye and for him to tell them he loved them.

"I'm honoured and grateful to receive this award," Mr Miller said.

"I know if Joe had have been in my shoes he would have done the same for me.

"To this day my thoughts are with the McCloskey family."

Mr Miller, a firefighter crew commander, is being honoured with The Queen's Gallantry Medal, awarded to civilians for acts of bravery.

He lived near Mr McCloskey between Dungiven and Limavady and arrived on the scene after the accident, put on breathing apparatus and set about rescuing his colleague.

The storeroom was described as a fire ball with temperatures in excess of 1,000C.

Mr Miller was eventually helped by two other firefighters after dragging his friend out of the building. He suffered heat exhaustion and burns and had to be doused in water to put out the flames on his protective gear.

Mr McCloskey, who asked not to be sedated before getting to see his family in Altnagelvin Hospital, died the day after the fire on November 2, 2003.

A part-time firefighter from Dungiven for more than 25 years, he had been ordered up on to an upper level of the Gorteen House Hotel to break holes in the roof.

The aim was to release heat from the building and prevent a store housing 25,000 boxes of matches, a gas cylinder and nearby liquor supplies from worsening the fire.

An inquest into his death heard the fire had been started deliberately.

Mr McCloskey's wife Marie has been pushing for the last number of years for Mr Miller to be recognised for his bravery. He is one of only two firefighters to receive the honour this year.

Press Association

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