Coun­cil faces court over fire­men deaths



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.

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