Investigation launched after female fire fighter nearly choked to death.

A FEMALE fire fighter nearly died in a house fire after the air pipe on her breathing apparatus disconnected.
Instead of breathing in oxygen, she ended up taking in toxic black smoke and nearly choked to death.
Quick-thinking colleagues spotted her in distress and pulled her out of the building on Richmond Road, Dublin.
She was then rushed by ambulance to the nearby Mater Hospital for treatment.
The incident, which happened about five minutes after the fire fighter entered the building after the force received a 999 call to the premises around 4am last Thursday week, July 2, is now being investigated by Dublin Fire Brigade.
It is the second such investigation in almost as many weeks by the force into injuries sustained by its fire-crew during call-outs.
One is under way into the force’s handling of the June 10 Portmarnock sewerage tragedy in which two men died.
While attempting to rescue Alan and Stephen Harris, who had been trying to clear a blockade in the sewerage system on the exclusive Drumnigh Wood Estate in north Co Dublin, three fire crew were injured.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said last night: ‘As part of standard operational procedures, Dublin Fire Brigade is conducting an investigation into this incident.
‘All matters relating to the incident will be duly dealt with within this framework.
‘We have nothing further to add on this incident.’
A spokesperson for Scott Safety – which makes the breathing apparatus Dublin Fire Brigade uses – said last night: ‘Scott Safety confirms that they are aware of the alleged incidents at Dublin Fire Brigade and will fully cooperate with the investigation team.
‘Our number one priority is and has always been the safety of the firefighters and all users of our equipment.
‘We are continuing to closely monitor this situation and will provide additional information as it becomes available.’
Thursday’s incident is the latest of a string of mishaps involving the force’s controversial breathing apparatus.
Last month, on June 16, there was another incident involving one of the force’s breathing apparatus (BA) system.
A fire fighter attending a 2am house fire in the Kilbarrack area of Dublin had to discard his BA after the air cylinder on his back dropped out of the back plate holding it in place.
Although user error was suspected, it dropped out because of a faulty couplet holding it in place.
The faulty BA set has now been sent away for repair.
Last September, a fireman was left gasping for air while fighting a blaze in a burning building when his breathing apparatus malfunctioned.
As the time, it was second incident in eight weeks this had happened.
And it followed on from an incident in January when the breathing apparatus of two other firemen stopped working during an operation to rescue eight people from a blazing building.
As at the time, at least another eight ‘catastrophic episodes of equipment failures’ had been reported to Dublin City Council chiefs in less than two years.
In September’s case, a fireman had reached the first landing in a derelict building opposite Coombe Hospital on Cork Street, in Dublin’s south inner city.
His crew, from Dolphins Barn station, had rushed to the 7.30pm fire fearing there might have been someone inside.
But as they began fighting the blaze inside, the breathing apparatus of one firefighter suddenly stopped working.
That and an earlier malfunction during a training exercise in Blanchardstown, were also investigated.
Since last September, DFB has made a number of improvements and taken on board a number of safety concerns raised by the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association (IFESA)
The association launched a High Court action against Dublin City Council over the ‘regular failures’ of the Scott ACSFX BA apparatus and the case is ongoing.
The union has claimed not enough was being done to address their concerns about this equipment, which was introduced into the brigade in late 2011.
Shortly after the equipment was introduced, however, issues started to emerge.

Ireland’s ‘arrogant’ charity sector

IRELAND’S charities have been accused of arrogance by a leading charity boss.

Jack & Jill founder Jonathan Irwin attacked the sector – which receives billions of euro of taxpayers’ cash each year – because so many charities have so far failed to either register or engage with the new regulator.

Just 65 of the estimated 4,000 charities that must register with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) by next April had completed their registration up to about two weeks ago.

The regulator was created after controversy over directors’ huge remuneration packages in charities such as Rehab and the CRC.

While 650 of the charities have started the registration process, the regulator said only a small fraction had actually completed the process.

At the current rate of registration completions – about 130 a year – it would take more than 30 years for all the charities to sign up.

Charities Regulatory Authority
Jonathan Irwin: ‘It is quite wrong that the CRA is not firing on all cylinders given the crisis in the sector last year.’

Mr Irwin has condemned the low rate of registration as ‘appalling’.

He said: ‘It is a real indictment of the charity sector and, perhaps, its arrogance. It is quite wrong that the CRA is not firing on all cylinders given the crisis in the sector last year.

‘Too many charities have been too comfortable for too long.’

Apart from the estimated 4,000 charities that must register with the CRA by next April, another 8,500 charities with ‘CHY’ numbers from the Revenue were registered automatically when the CRA was established.

However, it has also emerged that of these charities, more than half have yet to engage with CRA staff.

Despite the thousands of letters sent out to these charities requiring key information from them, just 3,600 had responded by about two weeks ago.

The CRA said: ‘Approximately 3,600 charities have provided additional information to date in response to the CRA’s request by letter to all charities deemed registered under section 40 of the 2009 Charities Act.

‘The CRA has requested information from all registered charities to supplement the information received by the CRA directly from Revenue in respect of charities deemed registered under section 40.

‘The CRA has not yet set a deadline for the completion of this information provision. We encourage all registered charities that have not yet completed the process to do so as soon as they can.’

Asked how many of the estimated 4,000 charities that do not have a CHY tax exemption number from Revenue had fully registered with the regulator, she replied: ‘Approximately 650 organisations have commenced the process of applying for registration.’

Of these, she said: ‘Approximately 10% have completed all aspects of application.’

Miriam Reidy helped inspire Oireachtas report recommending tighter fuel installation controls

THE MEMORY of a woman who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Cork hotel in 2011 was evoked yesterday at a gas safety launch in the Oireachtas yesterday.
It was announced a study should be urgently carried out to discover exactly how many illegally-installed boilers are currently being used.
The joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication is also recommending a study be made into the viability of carbon monoxide alarms being installed in all premises, whether private or public. And they want to see the regulatory structure that surrounds domestic fuel installations extended to the commercial sector. In making their recommendations, they frequently referenced Miriam Reidy, whose sister Siobhan Barrett has launched a campaign to have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms installed in hotels and other public places.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Cork Co Co Mayor John Paul O’Shea said recently: ‘Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

The report (and see Oireachtas video link below. The meeting starts after about 8 minutes) states lives are being put at risk all over the country by gas boilers being installed without the necessary safety certification.
Committee Chair, John O’Mahony TD, said: ‘The Report was informed by a hearing which took place in February of this year on the risk to public health and safety posed by uncertified gas boiler installations.
‘The Committee heard that illegal contractors are certainly operating in Ireland, but there was no consensus amongst the stakeholders as to the extent of this problem.
‘In compiling this Report, the Committee was at all times cognisant of the tragic death of Ms Reidy in Kinsale a number of years ago, which resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning following a gas leak.
‘Preventing more fatalities is the Committee’s priority in producing this Report.
‘We are greatly concerned by assertions that many installers are operating outside of the law, thus placing lives at risk, as well as undermining those installers who adhere to the law.’

At the moment, there is only a legal requirement that new build private dwellings should have a (carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, but not in commercial premises like hotels. For years now, the Association Of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland has been lobbying hard for tighter control on the installation industry,
Since then, a variety of figures have been publicised as to the estimated amount of cheap and potentially lethal boilers are in circulation.
The figures range from around 60,000 to over 100,000, as presented to the Oireachtas earlier this year.
While most of these are in private dwellings – which carry the greatest risk from CO poisoning – as many as 8,000 domestic appliances may have also been installed illegally in commercial premises.
There has been behind-the-scenes conflict between the Commission for Energy Regulation and the APHCI over just what is the most accurate figure.
Late last year, it emerged the CER, which is the prosecuting authority for illegal gas works, was unable to verify how many people have potentially lethal boilers installed.
This is because the body does not know how many boilers are sold in Ireland each year.
And the CER, which even asked the Central Statistics Office to help determine boiler sales figures, admitted it may not even be possible to get a number.
This is more than two years after the APHCI told the CER that the annual number of illegally installed boilers is ‘at least’ 10,000.
As a result, thousands of lives are at risk as a result of the illegally installed boilers put into homes around the country ‘on the cheap’. And given up to 8,000 illegally-installed boilers are in commercial premises, Mrs Barrett’s campaign is all the more timely. Although domestic CO alarms cost as little as €16, the costs for commercial premises could be many more times that.
Options include fire and CO alarms housed in one single unit and wired to a central monitoring station in a commercial business.
Although a stand alone monitor can cost around €50, the cost of wiring it to a central monitoring unit can – according to industry sources – ‘thousands’ and that depends on the size and type of the commercial premises.
Another option, which some hotels have already adopted, is for a CO alarm directly attached to the commercial boiler.
If the alarm detects CO, it doesn’t just alert the commercial premises owners, it also automatically shuts down the boiler.
However, there are those who believe one alarm attached to a boiler might not be enough, especially if that alarm malfunctions.
These would be those who favour even a simple domestic CO alarm being placed in hotel rooms, which is a comparatively cheaper option.
Mrs Barrett said last night: ‘If a small, domestic alarm had been in my sister Miriam’s hotel room, I am convinced she would still be alive today.
‘I appreciate there are many sides to the issue and that not all the experts would think a small domestic alarm is the right way to deal with the CO problem. but I personally think it is a no-brainer.
‘At the very least, a small, battery-operated CO alarm that costs as little as €16 would be an extra layer of added security against this lethal gas.’
She added: ‘I am so glad that the joint committee is tackling this issue and taking seriously concerns about the whole heating appliances issue.
‘My worry, however, is the amount of time it is taking for changes to be made.’

Carbon monoxide poisoning threat from illegally-installed appliances in up to 8,000 public premises

Miriam Reidy Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Gas Networks Ireland CO awareness ‘Tommy’ campaign.

THERE ARE an estimated 8,000 public premises in Ireland that have illegally-installed boiler and heating appliances.
The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland say premises include small hotels, bed and breakfasts, youth clubs and hairdressers.
Earlier this year, the APHCI told an Oireachtas committee that an estimated 18,000 illegal boilers have been fitted every year since 2009.
As it has always been reported that these are domestic fuel burning appliances have been installed for domestic purposes, it has always been assumed they have been installed in homes.
And as a result of concern about domestic installations – largely raised by APHCI – the registration and control of installers has been greatly tightened up.
But it has now emerged that thousands of these domestic appliances have also been installed in public premises.
Under the Commission for Energy Regulation’s RGii registration and regulatory scheme, anybody installing a domestic appliance has to be properly certified.
The revelation that dodgy domestic appliances have been installed in public premises comes as the sister of a woman who died of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in a Cork hotel has launched a campaign to legislate for CO gas alarms to be fitted in public premises.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘It is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death.’

Siobhan Barrett launched the campaign yesterday out of frustration at seeing so little done in the wake of her sister Miriam Reidy’s death in January 2011.
She wants to do what she can to make sure nobody again dies in the same circumstances as her sister, who died from the deadly gas emitted from the hotel’s commercial heating system.
At present, CO alarms only have to be fitted into new build dwellings and commercial premises are not obliged to have them.

Sean Giffney carbon monoxide poisoning Miriam Reidy
Sean Giffney: ‘This is something that needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.’

APHCI chairman Sean Giffney said last night: ‘It’s very difficult to know the illegal element that are installed in small premises.
‘There are no regulations covering the installation of boilers in commercial premises.
‘We know of commercial premises that have had installed domestic appliances, and as such they come under the control of the RGii certification scheme.
‘But given that we also know the total estimate of illegally installed fuel burning appliances, we believe a small proportion – between 6,000 and 8,000 – of these are used in public premises.
‘This is something that needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.’
On Mrs Barrett’s campaign, he added: ‘We would support what she is trying to do.
‘We believe these alarms can be put in at a relatively low cost and it’s a commons sense measure we also believe should be legislated for.

Adrian Cummins carbon monoxide poisoning  Miriam Reidy
Adrian Cummins: ‘I can’t see our members objecting to putting in CO alarms if the cost and the science is right and stacks up.’

Last night, the Restaurants Association of Ireland was the first organisation to show backing for Mrs Barrett’s campaign.
CEO Adrian Cummins said: ‘You have to think about the logistics of something like this.
‘But I can’t see our members objecting to putting in CO alarms if the cost and the science is right and stacks up.
‘We would be delighted to support this initiative if it was brought in on a voluntary basis to begin with to see how it gets one.
‘People in the business community need to be educated about the need for such alarms and that some kind of voluntary code should be agreed to.
‘The government needs to look at this as well, as do the various other business bodies.’
He added: ‘A CO alarm is like a smoke alarm. It’s the same principle.
‘If the costs are at a minimum, I’d say restaurants would do it.’

Carbon Monoxide suffering
Bord Gas Networks ‘Tommy’ campaign: Stone dead in three minutes.

Owen Wilson, Head of Network Safety, Gas Networks Ireland, said: ‘Carbon Monoxide poisoning is completely preventable.
‘Correct installation, regular maintenance and servicing of fuel burning appliances by a registered technician and safe use of appliances are the best means of keeping your home and business safe.
‘For added protection, Gas Networks Ireland recommend the fitting of one or more audible carbon monoxide alarms.
‘Gas Network Ireland supports a range of initiatives to counteract the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
‘Information campaigns, regular servicing, competency schemes, enforcement of existing codes and new legislation can all play a role in reducing the incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.’
Do you know anybody who has lost a loved one from carbon monoxide poisoning? Contact randomirish @ icloud . com

ends

More people like Miriam Reidy will die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

MORE PEOPLE will die before a simple measure to warn about carbon monoxide poisoning is legislated for, the sister of a woman who died in 2011 has predicted.

Siobhán Barrett’s sister Miriam Reidy died in Kinsale’s Trident Hotel, Co Cork, after the deadly gas leaked into her hotel room. Mrs Barrett is to launch a campaign to make it compulsory for all buildings – whether public or private – to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. They cost as little as €16 and take just seconds to install.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Miriam Reidy

‘Since Miriam died, nothing has changed as far as I can see it,’ Mrs Barrett said last night. ‘In health and safety terms, her death was little more than an insignificant incident and just doesn’t seem to have made any difference to anything.

‘As much as I hate to say this because I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, I believe more people will die before the powers that be actually do something.’

Her comments come as a joint Oireachtas committee report on gas safety is due to be released in the Dail on Wednesday. It follows on from a warning in 2012 about the ‘ticking time bomb’ of illegally-installed gas boilers.

There are an estimated 100,000 illegally-installed gas appliances around the country. In addition, there are more than 2,300 plumbers operating around the country who are either not fully registered or even qualified to install gas boilers.

Wednesday’s Dail report is due to recommend that anyone who wants to buy a boiler will either have to be a fully registered gas installer or be able to prove that will be installed by one.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘Miriam died through no fault of her own but the fact that there is no accountability it just heart-breaking.’

The issue of carbon monoxide alarms in public premises is not, however, among recommendations for action, yet. This is in part to do with the recent change in law which means all new build dwelling houses have to have them installed.

But it is the lack of any legal obligation on the part of owners of public premises to install carbon monoxide alarms that most concerns Siobhán Barrett.

Last night, Trident Hotel MD Hal McElroy said: ‘There is no legislation or requirement for hotels to have carbon monoxide alarms in hotel rooms.

‘Having given this consideration and taken advice, we fitted detectors on the new boiler system at source which is a more efficient way of ensuring that the CO or any variation in output will close down the boilers.

‘There can be no CO without combustion. This is in fact a safer and more efficient way of ensuring the safety of our guests and staff.

‘This device detects, at source, a presence of carbon monoxide or any irregularities in the system, and in the event of either, would immediately shut the boiler system down.’

Miriam died at the hotel on January 9, 2011, five days after the hotel’s boiler was converted from natural gas to liquid petroleum gas. Plumber Richard Davis, who converted the boiler, was subsequently tried for manslaughter and other charges and found not guilty. Mr Davis of Killanully, Ballygarvan, Co. Cork, had denied all charges.

‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss’.

The Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how Ms Reidy, 35, and her sister, Patricia Reidy Russell, were staying at the hotel while in Kinsale for their cousin Marie Reidy’s hen party.

They had returned to their room at around 1am. Neither of them had drunk very much. Miriam collapsed when she got up to go to the bathroom during the night and Patricia called a doctor after helping her ‘dazed’ sister into bed.

The women, who initially thought their drinks might have been spiked, were treated with injections for the vomiting bug. Later that day, when Marie – concerned she couldn’t contact them – went to their room, she discovered them and performed CPR on Miriam while a pal called 999. Paramedics fought to save her but she was already dead. Patricia, who was also violently ill, was rushed to hospital and her life spared.

The State had alleged Mr Davis failed to correctly convert the boiler to run on petroleum gas. The trial heard it was installed without a carbon monoxide safety test being carried out. It also emerged that shaft ducts in the hotel, which was built in 1965 and refurbished in 2004, had not been fire-sealed.

As a result, the boiler produced large amounts of carbon monoxide, which migrated through incompletely sealed service ducts and into hotel rooms, the trial heard. Other guests, including Limerick City FC player Ian Turner and his girlfriend, were also affected by the poisonous gas.

The defence argued commissioning of the boiler was not the only issue. They said the accumulation of gases due to ineffective flues and the passage of gases through incompletely sealed service ducts into Miriam and Patricia’s room were also factors.

‘Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.”

The jury found Mr Davis not guilty of unlawfully killing Miriam. It also found him not guilty in his capacity as a director of Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd to two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 relating to the conversion of a gas boiler for use with liquid petroleum gas at the Trident Hotel on or about January 4, 2011.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘It is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death,’ says Siobhan Barrett.

His company, Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd, was found not guilty of two similar breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act on dates in January 2011.

‘We still carry an awful lot of hurt about the whole thing,’ Siobhán said last night. ‘The court case got us a hearing and the outcome was the outcome and as a family we have to respect that.

‘But it is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death and that is one of the heart-breaking things about her death.

‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss.

‘If Miriam’s death meant anything in the context of health and safety, then something would have been done to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.

‘We are trying to get on with our lives but we are always hoping that something will be done to change the way things are as far as carbon monoxide detectors are concerned.

‘Miriam died through no fault of her own but the fact that there is no accountability it just heart-breaking. It’s almost as if her death wasn’t enough of a wake-up call for someone to do something and pay attention.

‘I suppose the reality of the situation in this is that if it happened a second time, and another person’s daughter or sister died in a hotel again, maybe then they might realise the situation. Maybe they might finally say “Hello, we might need to change the law here.”

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Cork Co Co Mayor John Paul O’Shea: ‘Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

‘I wish it wasn’t the case but I feel that is the only way they will do something, because clearly Miriam’s death hasn’t been enough for them. And you know the pace of change in this country.’

Of her sister, she said: ‘Had Miriam been alive this year she would have celebrated her 40th birthday this May. Instead of attending a 40th birthday party, we visited her favourite beach in Kerry – Banna beach and released some balloons in her memory.

‘Miriam was a kind and gentle natured young woman, very close to her family and she had a good circle of friends. When she died she was just in the middle of plans to move into a new home with her boyfriend and move onto the next phase of life – get married and have her own family.

‘Instead that dream was stolen from her – she was taken from us and it now appears that her death was insignificant.’

She added: ‘Her death has left a huge void in our family and in all of our lives and that will be there forever. We live with the pain of her loss every day.

‘It would be of some small comfort to us to know that her needless death was not in vain and that legislative changes would have come in to effect as a result.’

Cork County Council was asked to explain what it has done since Miriam Reidy’s death to help prevent another death like hers but it declined to comment on any action it has taken.

Instead, spokesperson Tom O’Sullivan said: ‘The Health and Safety Authority investigated this incident in Kinsale and is the statutory body responsible for the issues raised in your questions. There is no issue for the CCC planning department.’

When Cork County Council mayor councillor John Paul O’Shea was then approached, he replied: ‘The HSA is the statutory body that inspects promises from a health and safety compliance perspective and has powers to enter any building at any time to do so and to order specific actions.

‘Also, Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

Unlike Cork County Council, the Trident Hotel did at at least acknowledge the loss felt by the Reidy family.

MD Hal McElroy said: ‘Following the tragic death of Miriam Reidy, we expressed, and again wish to express our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones, and we wish to state again how profoundly sorry we are for their loss. Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.’

A Department of the Environment spokesperson said: ‘From an analysis of the incidents that have occurred in the UK, the predominant area for carbon monoxide fatalities is in dwellings.

‘This analysis would appear to suggest that non-domestic buildings would not be considered high risk category having regard to the number of carbon monoxide incidences involved.’

Have you lost a loved one from carbon monoxide poisoning in a public premises? Email randomirish @ icloud . com

Investigation launched into Dublin Fire Brigade handling of Portmarnock sewerage tragedy

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into Dublin Fire Brigade’s handling of the recent Portmarnock sewerage tragedy in which two men died.

It is likely to take up to six weeks and was instituted by DFB because three crew were injured during the June 10 mission to rescue Alan and Stephen Harris. Two of those fire fighters only only returned to work Saturday. A third is due to return tomorrow.

All three had not been passed fit for work after they ended up being covered in raw sewerage during their bid to rescue Alan and Stephen. The Harris brothers died after they separately succumbed to fumes while they were working to clear a blockage in the sewerage system on the Drumnigh Wood Estate, in Portmarnock, north County Dublin.

Drainage company Harris Drain Tech director Alan, 45, was the first of the two to fall into the sewerage system.

Alan Harris of Harris Drain Tech
Alan Harris

He is believed to have been about half way down the 12-meter shaft when he collapsed. His younger brother and part-time actor Stephen, 32, raced down after his brother to try and save him but he too succumbed to the fumes. While Alan died at the scene, paramedics managed to revive Stephen but he tragically died two two days later.

Fire crew had to strip naked in front of onlookers.

Because three fire fighters were injured, Dublin Fire Brigade has launched an internal inquiry, which is due to take about six weeks. Sources say there are issues over why various protective or rescue equipment were either not used at all or only for a portion of the DFB’s rescue mission.

Stephen Harris of Harris Drain Tech
Stephen Harris

For example, although dry suits were at the scene, they were not used. This is because a decision was taken to send the fire fighters down to try and save the Harris brothers’ lives as quickly as possible.

All three crew who went into the sewer ended up being – according to sources – ‘almost entirely covered’ in raw sewage. They went down dressed in their standard-issue fire wellington boots, fire trousers and fire tunics.

While the trousers and tunics have certain thermal properties to give wearers some protection against extreme heat, they are neither fire retardant or water proof. Had they worn dry suits, they would have been protected against the sewage.

In addition, because there was no contamination suite erected at the scene of the tragedy, all three had to strip naked. Watched by onlookers, including school children, their colleagues then hosed them down.

They were later taken to Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital for injections and tests in the same ambulance.

It has also emerged that it was not possible to erect and operate the force’s Quad Pod rope haulage and harness system (pictured during a training exercise just days previously) to bring Stephen – the first of the two brothers to be brought up – to the surface.

Using the device greatly increases the speed with which casualties can be brought to the surface. Bystanders on the estate where the rescue was being conducted were used to help haul Stephen Harris to the surface because there wasn’t time or extra staff available to erect the force’s Quad Pod.

While the fire officers knew what they were doing, the bystanders who helped haul the first casualty up didn’t and pulled too fast. As a result, Stephen snagged half way and fell partially out of the rope hold he was in and on top of one of the fire fighters, dislodging his breathing apparatus.

However, when the Quad Pod was erected and a harness used, Alan was brought to the surface without incident. It has also emerged that the two fire engines and one rescue tender with a crane and specialist equipment sent to scene were each a man down.

As a result, the number of designated fire crew tasked with specifically rescuing the Harris brothers from the sewerage system totalled 12 – five on board Delta 61 fire engine, four on-board Delta 41 fire engine, two on board Delta 35 rescue tender and one district officer.

Because D61 came from Kilbarrack, which is a one-pump fire station, the vehicle should have had six crew on board and D41 should have had five crew on board as it came from North Strand, which is a two-pump station.

Fire crews practiced near-identical rescue days before Portmarnock tragedy

D35 should have had three crew on board as it came from Phibsboro, which is also a two-pump station.

While there were 12 crew designated to rescue the Harris brothers, a further six were designated to tend to them when they were each brought to the surface before taking them to hospital.

In addition, one DFB crew member was used to drive an advanced paramedic vehicle containing three National Ambulance Service paramedics. A senior officer later attended the scene.

So, of the total of 20 DFB at the scene, about 13 were directly involved in the rescue while a further six tended to casualties.

This contrasts with the estimated 19 DFB crew who took part in a training exercise (pictured above) just days earlier in the grounds of Dublin’s iconic Poolbeg Generating Station.

The object of that training exercise was to rescue a single casualty trapped and injured in a confined space, deep below ground. Three fire engines – Deltas 31, 32 and 11 attended with a total of 15 crew on board.

A further three fire crew on board the rescue tender Delta 35 – the same vehicle used in Portmarnock – are believed to have attended the training exercise.

In addition, a Dublin Fire Brigade district officer attended. The exercise was almost identical to the real-life incident in Portmarnock.

‘Number of personnel attending and weight of response to incident was appropriate’

Asked why fire crew had not worn dry suits, a Dublin City Council spokesperson confirmed there had been dry suits on site but said: ‘Following a dynamic risk assessment carried out by the incident commander, it was decided to carry out an immediate rescue to save valuable time in effecting the rescue.’

When asked about the fact that the Quad Pod was not used for the first rescue, they added: ‘The setting up of the quad pod would have taken up valuable time which would have delayed the rescue effort for the first casualty.’

A Dublin City Council spokesperson said: ‘Dublin City Council extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the Harris brothers who died following the tragic incident in Portmarnock.

‘One Fire-fighter who had his face mask dislodged felt nauseous and at this point is was decided that he and the other two Firefighters should be taken to hospital as a precaution.

‘It is reasonable in these circumstances that all three Firefighters travelled in the same vehicle. Additional Ambulances could have been requested at any stage during the incident

‘A total of 20 Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) Fire-fighters/Officers attended the incident including a senior on-call Fire-Officer. The number of personnel attending and the weight of response to this incident was appropriate and in line with pre-determined attendance.

‘To help ensure appropriate resources are available DFB operates a minimum manning level which is maintained through staff management procedures.

‘This incident was not designated a hazardous-material incident (based on the data received from initial call). As a result, the hazardous-material unit was not mobilised.

‘All front line vehicles have a primary decontamination capability which was used in this case. The number of appliances and personnel who respond to an incident is based on the information provided by the caller to the control room.

‘There is a PDA (Pre-Determined Attendance) for each incident type which is dispatched by the controller, at this incident the response was appropriate and in accordance with PDA as stated previously.

‘In all training the goal is to maximise the learning outcomes, as a result the Officer in Charge of a training exercise ensures as many as possible can attend. The number of personnel at a training exercise is not an indicator of how many personnel are required at an actual incident.’

They added: ‘Of the three Fire-fighters who were referred to hospital for assessment, two are expected to return to their normal shift (on) 27th June. The third Fire-fighter has been confirmed fit for duty from Monday, 29th June’.

Do you have a news story? Email randomirish @ icloud . com

National Ambulance Service paramedic had to dial 999 to get help from the fire services he needed

AN ambulance worker had to dial 999 instead of using their own internal emergency channel to help a badly injured patient.

Sources claim the call to the public number was made only after an initial request to Control was not fully followed up on.

Questions about the incident were raised after it emerged that the patient – who had to be treated extra carefully because of suspected spinal injuries – did not get to hospital until more than an hour after the first 999 call was made.

It is claimed that a paramedic had asked for the fire service to be contacted for extra support but that another paramedic arrived instead, and this was not enough.

It was then that the 999 call was made for help from the Dublin Fire Brigade – and it was only when that support arrived that the patient could be taken to hospital, the sources claim.

It is highly unusual for an emergency worker on a call to dial 999, instead of simply calling their own dispatcher on their radio.

The incident happened in Bray, Co. Wicklow last Monday, June 8.

At 4.19pm, the HSE’s National Ambulance Service received a 999 call from a member of the public about a badly injured person at the base of a high harbour wall.

The HSE says the caller gave no indication that additional resources, including the fire service, would be required.

About seven minutes later, at 4.26pm, an ambulance with an advanced paramedic arrived.

The paramedic feared the patient had potential spinal injuries.

Sources say the paramedic then asked his control room to get help from the fire service but this did not happen. Instead, another paramedic was sent out, and arrived at 4.42pm.

But this meant there were only three ambulance staff at the scene, not enough to conduct a spinal roll – a method of immobilising a suspected spinal injuries patient and rotating them onto a spinal board – the source claims.

To save time, one of the paramedics then dialled 999 and asked to be put through to the fire service.

A fire engine duly arrived around eight minutes later.

The spinal roll took place and at 5.21pm – nearly an hour after the HSE’s National Ambulance Service received the first call from the member of the public – the patient was removed from the scene and finally arrived at St Vincent’s Hospital, in south Dublin, at 5.29pm.

When first approached, the day after the incident, the HSE declined to answer questions about whether or not assistance from the fire service was requested.

It also declined to comment on whether or not one of its own paramedics had dialled 999 or if the fire service had even attended the incident.

A spokesman simply confirmed that an ambulance arrived at the scene at 4.26pm and that staff requested additional resources, which arrived about 16 minutes later.

However, Wicklow County Fire Service‘s chief fire officer confirmed that assistance was not only requested but also provided.

Aidan Dempsey said: ‘Fire personnel from Bray Fire Station were alerted at 5pm on June 8 by the Eastern Regional Communications Centre at Townsend Street and responded immediately.

‘The incident type was notified as “Ambulance Assist” – which indicates that an ambulance crew requires the assistance of the fire service.

‘The message indicated that the incident was at the Bray Harbour wall and an advanced paramedic from HSE requesting assistance with log roll.’

He confirmed a fire crew was mobilised from Bray Fire Station at 5.04pm and arrived at 5.11pm. He said that the fire crew, under the direction of the HSE advanced paramedic, helped to transfer the patient to a spinal board.

When asked again, on June 10, about the incident, a HSE spokesman denied any of its crew asked for assistance from the fire service.

The spokesman said: ‘No requests were made from the crews on the scene for assistance from the fire service and the NAS has no record of a crew member contacting the fire service directly.’

But late Saturday evening, a HSE spokesperson finally admitted one of their own crew had indeed asked for assistance from the fire services and had dialled 999.

They confirmed that a rapid response vehicle with an advanced paramedic on board was ‘dispatched to the incident following a request from a crew member at the scene requesting assistance to carry out spinal mobilisation of the patient’.

They said: ‘The crew member had other options to request assistance of the fire service through the control centre such as the urgent request to speak or opening the channel and speaking directly to the dispatcher.

‘The crew member decided to ring 999 and called the fire service directly.’

The HSE declined to give the exact time the paramedic made his initial request for additional assistance and why he decided to dial 999.

The authority also declined to comment on whether or not the paramedic’s request for additional help from the crew on the ground was specifically for assistance from the fire service.

Do you have an example of where either assistance from the fire services has been made but not followed up or do you have an example where treatment was delayed because the fire services were not deployed?

Email randomirish @ icloud.com in the strictest confidence with specific details – times, places etc. Be careful not to provide any information which breaches the confidentiality or privacy of any patients involved unless you are aware they are willing to give their consent.