Coroner's court hears evidence about firemen's deaths

Wednesday 13 November 2013 22.12
Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray died while fighting a blaze in September 2007
Mark O'Shaughnessy and Brian Murray died while fighting a blaze in September 2007

A welder, who carried out works at a disused factory in Bray shortly before it caught fire, has told an inquest there was "absolutely" no fire when he finished the job.

Aidan O'Neill was giving evidence at Dublin Coroner's Court at the combined inquest into the deaths of Bray firefighters Mark O'Shaughnessy, aged 25, and 46-year-old Brian Murray.

The two men died while fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas off the Dargle Road in Bray on 26 September, 2007.

Last month Wicklow County Council was fined €355,000 for health and safety violations in relation to the incident.

Dublin Coroner's Court heard that Mr O'Neill, a metal fabricator from Bray, had been asked by his friend Garreth Nolan to weld shut the main factory door because people had been dumping rubbish in the premises.

Mr Nolan told the court that his aunt, who owned the factory, had asked him to seal the door after he had noticed rubbish, including washing machines and beds, piled 5ft (1.5m) high in the building ten days before.

When asked if he had seen cans of fire accelerant in the rubbish, Mr Nolan said that he had not.

The two men went to the building to carry out the welding works at 10am on the morning of the fire.

No metal sheet was used to prevent sparks escaping while the welding took place, Mr Nolan told the court under cross-examination.

Mr O'Neill said that 90% of the welding carried out happened on the outside of the building.

He had welded a bracket on the inside and this had taken "22 seconds at most".

The immediate area had been cleared of rubbish.

He said that when he finished inside he looked around to check and "absolutely nothing" was on fire.

"There was no fire at that stage. I will go to my grave saying it. Absolutely not," he said.

When he checked the work from outside once completely finished, he said, there was no smell or smoke.

Under cross-examination, Mr O'Neill said that sparks will travel 3ft (0.9m) before extinguishing and will only bounce at high voltage.

He was using a low voltage, he told the court.

The inquest also heard from Eamon O'Shaughnessy, who identified the body of his brother Mark.

In his deposition read out in court, he said that Mark had written a note detailing problems that he had identified with Bray Fire Service prior to his death.

He first saw this note while visiting the family home the day before his brother died and retrieved it when clearing out Mark's locker at Bray Fire Station.

He said that he knew from talking to his brother that Bray Fire Service "had been badly run for many years".

The note outlined problems his brother saw regarding the service. "These problems made Mark's job difficult," he said.

Conor Redmond made the first of two 999 calls regarding a thick plume of smoke rising from the building just after 10.40am.

He said he could not recall saying that the fire was dying down on the first call.

When Bray Town Council environmental supervisor Paul Wogan also raised the alarm by calling the fire station directly, he was told they already knew about the fire but had been told it had gone out.

Mr Wogan said he could clearly see smoke and flames coming from the building and told them that.