Glasgow & West Scotland

Fire chief sorry for mineshaft death of Alison Hume

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue has apologised over the death of a woman who fell down a mineshaft in Ayrshire.

Alison Hume, 44, lay for six hours after health and safety rules delayed a rescue at Galston in 2008.

The fire service had initially refused to say sorry after a fatal accident inquiry report on Wednesday, which said she may have lived if rescued sooner.

However, an apology was issued after First Minister Alex Salmond ordered a new probe into Mrs Hume's death.

The first minister had also said the family of Alison Hume deserved an apology in the wake of the incident.

Following Mr Salmond's announcement, chief officer of Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Brian Sweeney said: "Yesterday, Strathclyde Fire & Rescue received Sheriff Leslie's determination regarding the FAI into the death of Alison Hume.

"The report was more than 90 pages long and we are now taking the time to fully digest all that it has to say.

"In the meantime, and for the sake of clarity, I would like to reiterate our deep and profound regret over this incident; and for the avoidance of any doubt, to apologise to Alison's family and friends for its tragic outcome."

The chief inspector of fire and rescue authorities, Steven Torrie, will head up the new inquiry - only the second of its kind - which is expected to get under way shortly and to last several months.

Mrs Hume, a lawyer and mother-of-two, fell into the decommissioned Goatfoot Colliery mineshaft shortly before or after midnight on 26 July 2008.

Emergency services were called to the scene at about 02:15 after she was found by her daughter and was freed by mountain rescue experts at about 07:42, but later died in Kilmarnock's Crosshouse Hospital.

The fatal accident inquiry into her death, overseen by Sheriff Desmond Leslie, concluded Mrs Hume may have lived if emergency services - and the fire service in particular - had removed her sooner.

The sheriff's ruling highlighted procedural failings which led to the delay, and said senior officers on the scene "rigidly stood by their operational guidelines".

Speaking during first minister's questions at Holyrood, Mr Salmond said the FAI determination carried "many important lessons and issues", adding: "What people will now be looking for is an indication of the action that now must follow."

"Given the serious nature of the determination by Sheriff Leslie, I've asked the minister for community safety to make such a request of the chief inspector," he said.

"He will then carry out a comprehensive inquiry and the report is then laid before this parliament.

"It will then be for ministers to decide what direction, if any, can be made."

The first minister told parliament: "This is the most serious nature of action that can be made by ministers under the legislation - I think the circumstances of the case reflect it and require it."

Mr Salmond also said there was "nothing in Sheriff Leslie's determination which questions that the firefighters and fire officers on site - every single one of them - had the aim and intention of rescuing Alison Hume".

He added there was "nothing in the determination to deflect from the general admiration and support that we give the fire services and our other blue light services, which do such a fantastic job on Scotland's behalf".

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