Fire officers had been warned of bleeper system failings

 From left, members of the Murray family, Joanne, Darren, Mary and David Murray, during the inquest into the deaths of firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O'Shaughnessy at the Coroner's Court, Store Street, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

Radio controllers warned senior officers that Bray Fire Station’s bleeper system was failing and the problem could prove to be major, an inquest into the death of two firefighters heard.

The failures were detailed in an email sent eight months before an incident which claimed the lives of Mark O’Shaughnessy, 25, and Brian Murray, 46.

Concerns around the effectiveness of the emergency bleeper system in use by Wicklow fire services are among the issues being raised by the families of the two men at a combined inquest into their deaths, in its third day at Dublin Coroner’s Court.

Mr O’Shaughnessy and Mr Murray, a father of 15, died while fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas off the Dargle Road in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Wicklow County Council was fined €355,000 after pleading guilty last year to health and safety violations regarding the incident.

The inquest heard that in February 2007, shop steward for fire control operators at the station John Whiston emailed then chief fire officer James Dunphy and assistant chief fire officer Tadgh O’Shea, warning them the bleeper system was failing regularly and problems could “be major unless rectified”.

The email detailed 21 instances when the bleepers — used to notify the firefighters that they were required at the station immediately — failed to work.

The email stated: “The Watchroom staff have become very worried at this trend as, on many occasions. having alerted a crew, there are delays in firefighters responding and on three occasions this involved a driver”.

On the day of the fatal incident, the on-duty crew on the ground called for back-up. However, only three firefighters from the off-roster crew arrived at the station and none was a driver for the second fire tender. The three crew members eventually got to the fire using a hydraulic platform tender.

The inquest continues.


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