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Inquest hears tragic firefighters 'did not follow chief's orders'

A LAWYER for Wicklow County Council has argued that two firefighters who were killed in a blaze in a disused factory disobeyed their station officer's orders by moving further inside the building than he had told them to.

An inquest into the deaths of Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (25) had previously been told that station officer Jim Maguire told the pair to tackle the fire from just inside an inner doorway. However, their bodies were found much further inside.

VIOLATIONS

Cross-examining an expert witness, barrister for the council Luan O Braonain SC said that the two men "clearly" went further inside against Mr Maguire's instructions.

The firefighters died as they fought the blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Last October the council was find €355,000 after pleading guilty to health and safety violations relating to the incident.

Mr O Braonain made the comments while questioning John Williamson, managing director of UK Fire Skills Ltd, who carried out a review at the request of the Health and Safety Authority following the deaths.

Mr Williamson's report was highly critical of Wicklow Fire Services and the approach to the fire, highlighting understaffing in the fire control room, a shortage of firefighters for Bray and driver shortages.

He said that the burning building was disused and there was no need to risk firefighters' lives by entering it.

Water should have been used to tackle the blaze instead of a foam system.

Two fire tenders should have been sent to the scene when it was first reported, he said.

Mr Maguire, who was in charge, was unable to stand back and analyse the situation because he was forced to carry out firefighting duties, Mr Williamson said.

"In my view, the officer in charge of the fire should be able to look at the risk strategically, with the whole issue of safety in mind and how he is going to tackle the fire," he said.

Mr O Braonain said that Mr Maguire had told the court he would have positioned the two men inside the doorway even if more resources were at the scene.

He went on to say that the two firefighters had been given an instruction to stay in a particular place.

"They didn't. They absolutely clearly didn't stay where they were told to stay," he said.

"They went into the compartment and they went substantially into the compartment."

COMPLIED

The instruction was given clearly by Mr Maguire, said Mr O Braonain.

"If they had complied with it, they would have been at the door at the time of the fatal event," he said.

He added that they would then have been in a "position to exit immediately".

Asked by coroner Dr Brian Farrell if he accepted that this was the case, Mr Williamson said that he could not deny it.

Earlier, fire investigator Dr Peter Mansi took the jury through a detailed timeline of the fire's development.

The inquest continues on Monday.

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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