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Blaze that killed firefighters was 'like plane crash'


Firemen Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Firemen Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Firemen Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

A FIREFIGHTER for the Wicklow fire services has said fighting a fatal blaze in Bray was like working on a time bomb and said it looked like a plane had crashed.

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

Wicklow County Council, which runs the 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 said he was in the first engine that went to the scene of the fire.



He told Alex Owens, prosecuting, that there was silence in the fire engine as they crossed the Dargle river and saw the smoke ahead.

"It looked like a black wall. It looked like a 747 crashing, if you can imagine that. That's what I was looking at," the witness told the court.

"The smoke was almost like it was alive. It was going high and then going back to the ground. Going across the bridge there was silence.

"From the moment we got there it was like working on a time bomb. People were screaming and shouting."

He said he had trouble finding the fire engine at one point in the smoke and that visibility was reduced to about two feet.

He said that Mr Murray began trying to fight the fire by spraying an air foam mix through the main door.

He said that Mr Murray and Mr O'Shaughnessy put on a breathing apparatus and went in through this door.

He said he heard firefighter Jim Maguire, who was in charge, tell them a number of times "just inside the door". He and another firefighter then began trying to cut the welded door open using a con-saw.

When they finally managed to cut it open, Mr Maguire began spraying the fire from this door but he said this proved ineffective.

He said Mr Maguire then radioed Mr Murray twice but did not get an answer. He said he ran off through the smoke onwards to the other door.

When he returned he told the men to get on their breathing apparatus. The witness said Mr Maguire told them: "I'm sorry, but you're going in. Two of them are in the building."

Another firefighter told the jury that he never attended any specific course in the use of a newly introduced air foam system. Martin Lyons told Alex Owens, prosecuting, that the fire engine used on the day was a new pump which used a new compressed air foam system or CAFS.

He said he had completed a pump operators' course 18 months earlier which involved the use of the water pumps, which he had been using.

He said a man from the fire engine assemblers came in to a regular weekly training session and demonstrated how to put the engine into CAFS mode.

He said this man showed all the members of the brigade how to operate the CAFS. He agreed with Aileen Donnelly, defending, that after this the brigade used CAFS to deal with a number of incidents.

He said that CAFS had never been used at a building fire before the fire in September.

The trial continues.