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.

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

Missing Dublin pensioner found on Blackpool beach.

THE BODY of Thomas Kennedy has been found on a Blackpool beach. He was last seen putting out the bins at his home in Finglas on the evening of July 29, 2014.

And the 81-year-old’s family had been frantically searching for him ever since. But on Wednesday evening, they received the news they said last night they had never wanted to hear.

Although his body had actually been found on Blackpool’s south shore district last August, Lancashire Constabulary police officers were only able to formally identify him a dew days ago.

His widow Patricia said: ‘It was the moment we had all been dreading.

Poster appeal for information about Mr Kennedy after he disappeared.
Poster appeal for information about Mr Kennedy after he disappeared.

‘In my heart of hearts, I never really expected to find the man alive again but I had held onto hope.

‘We are, however tragic this is, glad to have the closure.

‘The worry and anxiety about it all had being going on for a long time.’

Patricia, 67, who had only recently launched on on-air appeal for information on RTE’s Liveline, added: ‘It’s very, very unfortunate.

‘We are all devastated at the news. It’s the news we never wanted to hear.

‘I’m not feeling very good about it as you can imagine but I just have to get on with it and prepare for his funeral.’

Mr Kennedy had been on the EU police agency Interpol’s Missing Persons website as well as a number of other such sites, including one set up by his family after he went missing on July 29.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary said: ‘We can confirm that a body found near to Starr Gate at Blackpool in August last year has this week been confirmed as that of Thomas Kennedy, 81, who went missing from his home in Dublin in July last year.

‘The body was identified through DNA. Mr Kennedy’s body will now be returned to Ireland.’

Patricia had gone upstairs to watch TV as usual and the last thing she heard was her husband putting out the bins.

He would normally stay downstairs for a while, watching his favourite science-fiction films or potter about, preparing plates for the next day’s breakfast.

‘I remember that evening very well,’ Patricia recalled. ‘The last thing I heard was him putting the bins out and I just thought he had come back in to watch his films.’

When her grandson Ross came into the house from work around 9.30pm, she had called down to him to ‘Tell granddad to take his tablets’.

But he wasn’t in the house and after a few hours searching locally and calling neighbours and friends, they alerted gardai around midnight.

Family, friends, neighbours and members of the Scouts – which Mr Kennedy had been heavily involved with – all rallied round, mounting searches.

As well as gardai dogs helping in the search, volunteers had come from all round the country to help find him.

The pensioner, who had been described as a ‘gentle, quiet’ man, had left without either his wallet or mobile phone.

Within the following weeks and months, there were more than 250 suspected sightings of him.

One of those sightings was in August when a Dublin taxi driver told gardai he was convinced he had picked Mr Kennedy up in Finglas around midnight on July 29.

He said he took him to either Belmayne or Balgriffin but that the man he believed was Mr Kennedy changed his mind and they went to Baldoyle, where one of his sons lives.

As well as gardai, volunteers from Civil Defence searched the old race course at Baldoyle, which is about seven minutes drive from Balgriffin, but they found no trace of him.

While he was missing, Patricia and her family couldn’t bring themselves to tell his young grandchildren they didn’t know where he was. Instead, they said he was in hospital.

Shortly before he had gone missing, he had actually been in hospital and had undergone a number of brain scans.

He had a history of heart trouble, had an abscess in his lung and a problem with one of his legs had meant he was unable to drive.

Last Christmas, one of his grand-daughters had asked Santa to bring him back to her and his younger grandson used to joke that he was away playing hide and seek and that he was the best man in the work at playing the game.

They routinely asked when their doting grandfather would be coming back. Patricia was putting on a brave face yesterday about the discovery by Lancashire Constabulary.

She said: ‘The police found him on Wednesday as far as we can tell. They called us at 6pm.

‘We’ve no idea how he died or even when exactly. We won’t know anything until he is released from the coroner in Blackpool.

‘At the moment, I don’t really know when I will go over or if I will. We are waiting for family to gather before we decide what the next step.

‘We also have to wait for the English coroner to release him and then the Irish coroner to accept him back into the country, as far as I know.’

She added: ‘I never expected to find the man alive because he hadn’t got medication with him for his heart, which had six stents in it.

‘Although his health was stabilised, he always needed his medication. To this day I have absolutely no idea what might have happened to him. I really haven’t got a clue.

‘Although there were posters put up on Manchester when he went missing because he had family and friends over there, I never believed he travelled there.

‘He had no money and or any means of getting money. All the man had when he left this house was his travel pass. He had no medical card, no credit cards and if he had any money, it would have been loose change.’

And she recalled the day she last saw him.

‘I remember to this day when I last saw him him on the July 29, it was on a Tuesday,’ she said. ‘I went upstairs to watch my programmes and he put the bins out.

‘I heard him put them out and I thought the man came back into the house but obviously he went out for a walk.

‘Despite his age and his heart, he was a fit man. He hadn’t shown any signs of being disorientated or had any episodes where that might have happened.

‘The only thing the man used to do was dose off on the couch for a few minutes when he ‘d sit down with a cup of tea. He had just come out of hospital and had had brain scans to make sure he wasn’t having seizures.’

She added: ‘He had had his disappointments. He was 81 and he couldn’t drive, his brother Tony died and his sister Kathleen died in the one year.

‘I think he took not driving badly although he said he didn’t but if you’ve been driving for years and you’re told you can’t drive, you’d be disappointed.

‘He was disappointed but we just got on with it and took the bus if we had to go into town, so it was not problem. Besides, he’d walk quite a bit for a man of his age.

‘He could walk around Finglas and down into the village.’

Red Bull Crashed Ice qualifiers Dublin and Belfast


This weekend saw the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Series qualifiers in Blanchardstown and Belfast.


They were part of Red Bull’s search to find athletes from across the country to participate in a world series in the winter extreme sporting event of ice cross downhill.


It is a four man full-contact, high-speed, downhill ice skating race along a 440 metre track, with steep turns and vertical drops, reaching speeds of up to 60 km/h in a timed battle, where the first to the bottom wins.


Over 140 competitors will take part in the race on a assault course that has been specifically designed for Ireland.


The track will be positioned in front of Stormont Parliament Buildings, Belfast and enjoyed by 40,000 spectators over two days in February.

Crashed Ice contestants after the Dublin qualifiers in Blanchardstown.
Crashed Ice contestants after the Dublin qualifiers in Blanchardstown.

These are a few random shots from this weekend’s two qualifiers.

Crashed Ice contestants after the Belfast qualifiers.
Crashed Ice contestants after the Belfast qualifiers.

Albert Reynolds removal to Sacred Heart

Some photographs from the removal earlier this evening of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who died this week after a long battle with alzheimer’s disease.


Tall Ships Dublin 2012 – Cuauhtemoc

Shots of the Mexican Navy‘s Cuauhtemoc off shore and then being escorted up the Liffey for the Tall Ships Festival.

(Many thanks to Michael Parker for organising a place on a Dublin Port Authority boat out to meet the Cuauhtemoc and the crew of the launch that got out there.)

Phoenix Park Motor Races 2012

A few random shots from the first of the two days’ races at this year’s Phoenix Park Motor Races.