Suppliers told accused a boiler change was easy

Suppliers of a plumber on trial for a gas leak manslaughter charge confirmed yesterday that they advised the accused that converting a boiler, central to the case, was just a matter of changing a chip.

Suppliers told accused a boiler change was easy

The case involves the death of Miriam Reidy at the Trident Hotel in Kinsale, Co Cork, in January 2011.

Richard Davis, aged 46, from Serenity, Killanully, Ballygarvan, Co Cork, is on trial for manslaughter of Ms Reidy and for two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

His company, Davis Heating and Plumbing Contractors of Marina Commercial Park in Cork, is charged with two similar breaches of the safety act relating to the conversion of a gas boiler at the Trident on January 4, 2011.

All charges are denied.

Two managers from a company Heat Merchants, Curragh Rd, Turner’s Cross, confirmed telling Mr Davis the boiler conversion was a matter of changing a chip.

However, opening of the case for the prosecution last week, Brendan Grehan SC said a prosecution expert would say that once a chip was installed in a natural gas boiler to run it on liquid petroleum gas, further adjustments would have to be made to the boiler.

Mr Davis had told gardaí in an interview: “My only crime is that I work too hard and take people at their word. I was told it was an easy chip conversion, that is why I went ahead and converted. Change the chip was all I was told. If there was any more I wouldn’t have touched it.

“I did not think it was a conversion. I thought it was a refit back to factory settings. I accept now I got the wrong information from my factory supplier.”

Yesterday, Martin O’Connell of Heat Merchants was asked by Mr Grehan: “What do you have to say about Mr Davis’s suggestion that you gave him instructions on the conversion process, that it was only a matter of changing the chip.”

Mr O’Connell replied: “I may have said it was only a chip because that is the only component part. Other boilers required multiple parts to be changed from LPG to natural gas or natural gas to LPG. In that case, the only conversion part was a chip.”

Mr Grehan said: “You gave him instructions on how the conversion process should take place?”

Mr O’Connell said: “I did not do that, I did not know the conversion process, I would have had to read the instructions. I could not have told him how to do it, I didn’t know how to do it, I have no gas qualifications whatsoever.”

In cross-examination, defence SC Michael O’Higgins, said: “You were saying it is only changing a chip. We now know there are two other elements to complete the process. He might have left you with the impression that it was only about changing a chip?”

The witness said: “I think I would have said it is only a chip.”

Another Heat Merchants manager, Seán O’Sullivan, said: “I am not denying I would have said there is a replacement chip and I would not have gone further than that.”

However, Mr O’Higgins stated: “You said: ‘It was just a matter of taking out the natural gas chip and putting in the LPG chip.’ You said that.”

Mr O’Sullivan replied: “I don’t dispute that.”

During detailed examination by Mr Grehan of a witness on the process of converting a gas boiler, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin remarked: “Apparently the prosecution are of the view that the jurors are in training for gas installation.”

The case continues today.

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