Council must pay €450k over deaths of two firefighters
on 26/10/2013 00:00:00
During a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last July, the council pleaded guilty to three charges of health and safety breaches. These pleas were accepted by the State, which withdrew a charge alleging one of the breaches caused the deaths.
Judge Desmond Hogan described the system of control and co-ordination in place at Bray Fire Station's watchroom as "antiquated, inefficient, and flawed", and said the training provided to firefighters was "peripheral and inadequate".
The training referred to was specifically around the purchase of a fire engine that used a new foam system to put fires out and which was used on the day of the fatal fire. He said this was the most serious breach because "this training related to a machine to be used in actual firefighting, a most dangerous and hazardous job for those involved".
"The results of that lack of training were evident on the day in question; the fire tender was not properly connected to the fire hydrant and that resulted in improper ratio of foam to water which resulted in impeding the firefighters using the system," he said.
He imposed a fine of €300,000 in relation to this breach.
A fine of €50,000 was imposed for the council's failure to provide an effective system of central control and communications. The trial heard there were issues on the day with marshalling support engines from neighbouring fire stations.
Two alert calls to Greystones Fire Station by Bray Fire Station requesting assistance to deal with the fire were not received. At one stage, three Bray firefighters were waiting at the watchroom in Bray to attend the fire but had no driver to take an engine out.
The judge said: "The watchroom procedures were old and out of date and not sufficient for the purposes they were required, that information was co-ordinated and that firefighters could be turned out efficiently."
He said the least serious breach related to the council's failure to review the safety statement.
"The council may have being lulled into a sense of false security under the umbrella of work being done by the Department of the Environment."
The trial heard the council was at the time involved with the department's plan to roll out a universal safety statement for fire departments across the country.
The judge said "it appears to me that the firefighters had consistent and regular training", before imposing a €5,000 fine for this breach.
Judge Hogan also granted costs against the council. Alex Owens, for the prosecution, said these came to a total of €95,793.21.
* Family statement read by Sinn Féin councillor John Brady, family spokesman:
"The families are happy to see the legal proceeding of this trial coming to an end, as the last six years have been very difficult, during which they received great public support for which they are very grateful.
"While welcoming the eventual guilty plea made by Wicklow County Council in relation to the charges brought as a result of the deaths of Brian Murray and Mark O'Shaughnessy, they are, however, disappointed with the leniency shown by the judge in relation to the fines.
"But they do welcome the criticism of the management of the fire service in Wicklow.
"In relation to the fines, the families do welcome the fact that the taxpayer doesn't have to pay a hefty fine for the council's shortcomings.
"There are, however, unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of both Brian and Mark and the families believe that these issues will be addressed during the upcoming inquest and the family will release a more comprehensive statement on completion of the inquest.
"The families at this stage do, however, repeat their call for a national fire service."