A welder who carried out works at a disused factory in Bray shortly before it caught fire told an inquest there was “absolutely” no fire when he finished the job and he would go to his grave saying that.
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 Brian Murray, aged 46, a father of 15.
They died while fighting a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas off the Dargle Rd in Bray on Sept 26, 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 high in the building.
When asked if he had seen cans of fire accelerant in the rubbish, Mr Nolan said he had not.
The two men went to the building to carry out the welding works at 10am on the day 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 90% of the welding 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 sparks will travel 3ft 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 told the court.
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