Cameron House fined £500,000 over fatal hotel fire

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image copyrightcopfs
image captionAerial photographs show the extent of the damage to Cameron House

A Scottish luxury hotel has been fined half a million pounds over a fire that claimed the lives of two guests.

Cameron House has been ordered to pay £500,000 after admitting to breaches of fire safety rules.

A hotel porter has also been given a community payback order to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.

Richard Dyson, 38, and his partner Simon Midgley, 32, died in the hotel blaze on the banks of Loch Lomond in December 2017.

The fire started after night porter Christopher O'Malley, 35, placed a plastic bag of ash in a cupboard containing kindling and newspapers.

O'Malley admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

image captionChristopher O'Malley admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act

Sheriff William Gallacher said the families of Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley will "always endure the heartbreak" caused by the fire.

Cameron House previously pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to take fire safety measures which were necessary to ensure the safety of staff and guests.

Survivor Hannah Munns, who was in the room next to the couple, said she felt "ignored and angry" after the sentencing.

Ms Munns told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime: "Two men have lost their lives, many families have been impacted and they (Cameron House) continue to trade. They are barely going to notice it."

'Ridiculous'

She also criticised the lack of communication since the blaze and said she could not make sense of O'Malley's "ridiculous" actions.

But Ms Munns added she felt more aggrieved at the fine handed down to Cameron House.

She said: "That's nothing. No lessons will be learned from that. Nothing will change as a result of that.

"It just feels like no-one has taken it very seriously. I am just in shock, really. It is almost saying our lives don't matter."

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image captionRichard Dyson, left, and Simon Midgley, right, who both died, had been on a winter break in Scotland

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said the fire had been devastating for the victims' families.

The Scottish Labour interim leader spoke to Mr Midgley's mother, Jane, after the sentencing and said she remains "heartbroken".

Ms Baillie added: "What we heard today, in the context of two young men losing their lives, does not seem enough to her.

"We have a major hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond that failed to heed the advice given to them by the fire brigade and others.

"The deaths of these two young men did not need to happen at all."

No safe system

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard staff were not properly trained in the safe disposal of ash and no written procedures were in place.

That was contrary to recommendations made in two fire risk assessments carried out by an independent company in 2016 and 2017.

There was no safe system for emptying the ash bins outside the hotel, which is next to Loch Lomond.

The day before the fatal fire, O'Malley had discovered they were both full. They had not been emptied since October 2017, two months before the 18 December blaze.

In August 2017, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service told managers not to store combustibles - like kindling and newspapers - in the concierge cupboard, but staff continued to do so.

media captionCCTV captures moment hotel fire takes hold

Peter Gray QC, acting for Cameron House, said the failings were not deliberate breaches but occurred "as a result of genuine errors".

He also told the court the fire had gone undetected for a long period before being discovered, and that the hotel had a "suite of measures in place" to deal with fire safety.

Sheriff William Gallacher also heard of an incident three nights before the fatal fire, when O'Malley and another night porter were told not to put ash into plastic bags because it was a fire hazard.

Mr Gray said it was therefore "extremely difficult to understand" why O'Malley did not follow this guidance on the night of the fire.

After the sentencing, Alistair Duncan, head of the Health and Safety Investigation Unit, said: "The failings on the part of Cameron House Resort and Christopher O'Malley led to the deaths of Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson.

"This incident should serve as a reminder to other companies that failure to implement the necessary fire safety measures can have terrible consequences."

Stuart Stevens, assistant chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said the "needless loss of two lives" could have been prevented.

Det Insp Stuart Grainger from Police Scotland said: "While nothing will ever diminish the pain of their loss, we hope that the conclusion of this case brings at least a small measure of comfort."

image copyrightcopfs
image captionThe interior of the hotel reception where the fire started in the concierge cupboard

The court was previously told O'Malley, of Renton, West Dunbartonshire, deeply regretted his actions and they were not deliberate.

More than 200 guests were staying in the hotel when an initial fire alarm sounded at about 06:40.

O'Malley opened the door and flames took hold, spreading to the hall.

He and two others tried to fight the blaze with fire extinguishers, but were overcome by the flames.

image copyrightCrown Office
image captionThe overflowing ash bins outside the luxury hotel

Firefighters arrived within 10 minutes to find a "well-developed" fire in the mansion, which is near Balloch in West Dunbartonshire.

It was after 08:00 when it was discovered that Mr Dyson, 38, and Mr Midgley, 32, were missing.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus found Mr Dyson on a landing at the top of a staircase.

Mr Midgley was lying in a fire escape passageway. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

Mr Dyson was taken to hospital, where he was also pronounced dead.

Post-mortem examinations said the men's causes of death had been inhalation of smoke and fire gases.

The couple had travelled from London, and were staying at the five-star resort as the final stop on their winter break to Scotland.

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