Saturday 23 March 2019

'No apology' from firm over double tragedy

The family of the late Terry Brennan outside Dundalk Circuit Court last week (from left): brother Niall, sister Sarah, dad John, mum Frances, sister Grace and brother Tony Brennan
The family of the late Terry Brennan outside Dundalk Circuit Court last week (from left): brother Niall, sister Sarah, dad John, mum Frances, sister Grace and brother Tony Brennan

Olivia Ryan

The grieving widow of a man who died at Drummonds Knockbridge grain store in 2009 along with his teenage co-worker said she has never received an apology from the company for the loss of her husband.

Paul Farrell (35) and Terry Brennan (19) died after they were overcome with carbon dioxide while working in the elevator pit at the plant on August 10th 2009.

Inquests into the two deaths were finally brought to a close at Dundalk courthouse last week, with a jury finding death in both cases as a result of a workplace accident, and making a series of recommendations to improve health and safety for anyone working in the industry.

Frances Farrell, who lost her husband Paul, and father of their two children in the double tragedy spoke after the inquest.

'My life and the lives of my children were changed forever the day my husband met his unfair death due to Drummond's negligence. We will never get our family unit back, and to say it is a struggle living without Paul is an understatement.

'I lost all hope and joy in almost everything and trying to rebuild that is a daily torment for six and a half years now. Nothing can replace my wonderful husband and my children's father and his family's lives.

'Drummonds got away with not having the correct safety equipment on site, no breathing apparatus or system to detect high levels of carbon dioxide. Why was this not enforced?

They were provided only with a dust mask and white overall suit, when it was shown that oxygen levels in the pit reached just 1%, when an abnormal oxygen levels would be anything below 16%, and they were overcome with carbon dioxide and met their untimely death. There was no gas alarm, no breathing apparatus, no safe means of escape. They had no chance. I now note that the jury have recommended a monitor to be fitted similar to a smoke alarm, and managers to have proper training, but it is too late for my husband and Terry. At the end of the day I didn't even get an apology.'

Frances and John Brennan, parents of 19 year old Terry, also spoke following the inquest. 'The death of our dear son Terry was due to the approach to health and safety by the management of Drummonds, and thankfully the jury has seen this and passed the correct verdict,' said Mrs. Brennan.

'There is proper health and safety implementation now for workers that work in Drummonds that weren't there before, and it's this that caused the death of our son Terry and his colleague Paul Farrell.'

She said they welcomed the current use of gas monitors, 'which weren't there when Terry worked there, and correct breathing apparatus, and formal training now for employees that wasn't there before.'

The inquest had heard from John Brennan that he spoke to Drummond's manager David Reilly just days before the double tragedy to raise his concerns about the lack of training provided for his son, particularly with operating machinery and low loaders.

He told the inquest also about his concerns over the long hours Terry had been expected to work.

Mr. Brennan told how he had said to Mr. Reilly 'You're expecting too much of our Terry,' to which he said the plant manager had replied 'He's well fit for it.'

Mr. Reilly recalled that they had had a general conversation about the 19 year old, but did not recall Mr. Brennan raising concerns about his son.

The inquest heard that a 'very poor' level of health and safety had been operating at the Knockbridge plant.

A number of representatives of the company management had given evidence stating that the elevator pit had not been regarded as a confined space prior to the tragedy.

Drummond's management also stated that the levels of Co2 that were recorded in the pit that morning had never been reported in any other elevator pit anywhere in the industry in Ireland or the UK.

The company confirmed that it had since introduced an extensive range of safety systems for anyone working in the pit, including gas monitors and an oxygen supply, along with a harness and a winch which could be used in the event of an emergency.

Irish Independent