Safety concerns delayed fatal blast search, council says

Emergency services at the scene of a fatal gas explosion in Killarney, Co Kerry, at the weekend did not immediately carry out a search of the scene because of safety concerns for their personnel.

A Kerry County Council spokesman said there were concerns about the stability of the ruins after the massive blast.

Some disquiet had been voiced about a delay of almost six hours in conducting a search near the scene of the explosion at a town centre launderette, which resulted in the death of the owner, James Gleeson, 59, on Saturday.

The explosion occurred at 6.20am, but the search of the rubble did not commence until around 2pm.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has rebutted suggestions it was responsible for the delay and said there was no question of the emergency services having to wait for a HSA inspector to arrive before conducting a search.

Council spokesman Padraig Corkery said a large steel girder on top of the mound of rubble was deemed unsafe and a crane had to be brought in to stabilise it. An ESB substation next to the launderette had almost been demolished by the explosion and gas cylinders were still in the ruins of a launderette, posing obvious risks.

“A decision was taken not go in immediately because of real fears for the safety of emergency services personnel and the fear of collapse,’’ he said.

Anxiety was being expressed by people at the scene that people might be alive under the rubble.

Mr Corkery, however, said a thermal imaging camera had been used to detect any body heat from survivors who may still be alive, but no positive results were picked up.

“The emergency services were satisfied from an early stage that nobody was trapped alive under the rubble,’’ he said.

Windows in several businesses shattered by the blast were still boarded up yesterday and Brewery Lane, where the launderette was located, was sealed off.

Mr Gleeson’s remains will repose at the home of his brother, Donagh, at Countess Rd, Killarney, between 3.30pm and 6.30pm today, followed by removal to St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney. Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 10.30am, tomorrow, with burial immediately afterwards in Aghadoe Cemetery.

Mr Gleeson is survived by his wife Grace, son Eoin, and sister Maureen Sheridan, Dublin.


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