Friday 27 April 2018

Wicklow County Council to be tried over firefighter deaths

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

WICKLOW County Council is due to go on trial next year over the deaths of two firefighters.

Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray were killed as they tackled a blaze at a disused warehouse on the Lower Dargle Road in Bray on September 26 2007.

No charges have been brought against any named individual, but the council faces four counts of breaches of health and safety laws after a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Authority and gardai.

The case was mentioned briefly before Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court today, where Judge Martin Nolan adjourned it until March 26 when a date for a trial or arraignment will be set.

Last week the case was transferred from Wicklow courthouse after barristers for the council argued it would be extremely difficult to empanel a jury there that was not affected by publicity about or knowledge of the events, personnel involved or the council itself.

The families of 26-year-old Mr O'Shaughnessy and father-of-15 Mr Murray, 46, have maintained the men's deaths were not the result of an accident, but a consequence of council policies.

Prosecutors claim the council put retained firefighters Mr O'Shaughnessy and Mr Murray at unnecessary risk, failed to provide a back-up crew quickly enough, gave inadequate training, and provided ineffective communication.

The charge sheet states that - under the Health and Safety Act 2005 - the council failed to discharge its duty to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of its firefighter employees in Bray.

The first charge alleges that the council did not provide a system of work which laid down clear rules of engagement for structural firefighting based on acceptability of risk and proper risk assessment.

It also states that it failed to ensure firefighters were not exposed to unnecessary risk, did not send a second tender within a reasonable period, and failed to establish, co-ordinate and maintain an effective system of central control and communication during the blaze.

Three other charges allege Wicklow County Council did not give staff sufficient training in the use of a compressed air foam system, failed to identify the hazards or assess risks, and did not review the Wicklow County Council ancillary safety statement for Wicklow Fire Service.

If found guilty, as a corporate entity, Wicklow County Council faces maximum fines of €2m - €3m for each offence.

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