Council faces court over firemen deaths
PROSECUTION AGAINST BODY CORPORATE RATHER THAN INDIVIDUALS
WICKLOW COUNTY Council is to face charges relating to the deaths of firemen Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy.
The two men died in a blaze at a vacant warehouse at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26 2007.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has instructed gardai in Bray to prosecute the council as a ‘ body corporate,’ rather than target any specific individual.
‘Gardai told family members that they had recommended that individuals be prosecuted,’ said Cllr. John Brady on behalf of the families. ‘However the DPP decided that there was insufficient evidence to uphold such cases.’
Charges against the council will include matters directly relating to the fatal fire, as well as general health and safety infringements. However it will be at least a month before the charges are drafted and a court date set.
Members of the families of the two Bray men met detectives at Bray Garda Station yesterday morning, where they were briefed on plans to bring charges against the local authority.
BRIAN MURRAY was 46, and dad to 14 children, when he died fighting a fire at Adelaide Villas in Bray. Two decades separated Brian and his colleague Mark O'Shaughnessy (26), who also perished in the blaze.
Brian was a hard working man with 10 loyal years of service with Wicklow Fire Service. Mark was a pleasant, quiet young man, at the start of his career in the service, who was devoted to his family and to his girlfriend Hazel.
They both died at 11.03 a.m. on the morning of September 26, 2007, when they went in to a burning warehouse on Adelaide Villas, off the Dargle Road.
A cloak of sadness covered a town struggling to come to terms with its grief in the wake of the tragedy. There was a sense of intense anger and frustration as thousands marched in Bray demanding a full-time fire service. They had buried their dead and wanted answers. Family and friends of the two heroes have made the annual pilgrimage to the scene of the deaths to keep the memory of the two men alive. Meanwhile, three investigations were carried out, by gardaí, the HSA and Wicklow County Council. It is reported that 14 boxes of files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions when gardaí in Bray completed their own enquiries. The Wicklow County Council inquiry is complete, but the findings will not be released until all other investigations have been finalised.
Both the Murray and O'Shaughnessy families raised a range of concerns immediately after the deaths over three years ago.
They launched scathing attacks on alleged ‘call vetting' practices and the lack of a fulltime service in county Wicklow.
The Murray family has claimed that a number of emergency calls were made on the day of the fatal fire before men were sent to the fire.
An inquest into the deaths was adjourned for the fourth time last November, when the Dublin County Coroner Dr Ciaran Geraghty heard that the Garda file was still with the DPP.
Dr Geraghty told the families in 2008 that the cause of death had been inhalation of gases, supporting a theory that the men had been using a ‘CAFS' compressed air system without full training.
It is believed that the investigation will reveal that the two men entered the building to a sudden surge of heat – possibly as high as 1,000C – which overcame them both and caused an explosion of trapped gas, smoke and vapours, a phenomenon known as ‘ dancing angels.'
A Dublin-based fire-fighter confirmed in 2008 that the compressed air foam system, which has no cooling properties, was not appropriate for the type of ‘ hot house' fire the men were dealing with.
A number of people have been questioned in relation to the tragedy, including county manager Eddie Sheehy, who has responsibility for the fire service, and other council officials.
The offices of Wicklow County Council were raided in February last year, when documents, files and computers were seized by gardaí.
Now, three years and six months since Brian and Mark took their last breaths, it is Wicklow County Council that will face the courts in relation to the deaths.
County manager Eddie Sheehy and chief fire officer Jim Dunphy.
ABOVE: Gardaí removing documents from Wicklow County Council in February 2010.