Cameron House fire: Night porter did not tell police he put ashes in cupboard
The night porter who received a criminal conviction over a fire at a luxury hotel which claimed two lives has told a Fatal Accident Inquiry he did not tell police in the aftermath that he had put a bag full of ashes into a cupboard.
The fire claimed the lives of Simon Midgley, 32, and Richard Dyson, 38, on December 18 2017 at the Cameron House hotel, near Balloch, on the banks of Loch Lomond.
Night porter Christopher O’Malley emptied ash and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag, and then put it in a cupboard of kindling and newspapers.
He admitted breaching health and safety laws and was given a community payback order last year.
Despite speaking to police officers on site following the fire and giving a statement, the inquiry into the deaths of Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson heard on Tuesday that Mr O’Malley did not inform officers that he had placed a plastic bag with ashes inside in the concierge cupboard.
Mr O’Malley was asked why he did not inform the police of his actions.
He said: “It didn’t come to me until later that’s what it was, that’s when I started to think, that’s what could have been responsible.”
The inquiry had previously heard on Monday from night manager Ann Rundell who said she had warned another night porter, Raymond Burns, not to use a plastic bag to clear the ashes.
Mr O’Malley said he had been present during the conversation, but could not recall exactly what was said.
He was asked why he placed the ashes in the cupboard, to which Mr O’Malley responded: “I hadn’t seen the bins full before so I didn’t know what to do.
“I didn’t think it would still be a fire hazard five hours later. I’m more aware now.”
The former night porter was asked if he reported it to a manager and he claimed he had done so a day previously, on Sunday, December 17.
Mr O’Malley said he found the metal bins where ashes were normally disposed of were still full.
The inquiry also heard how Mr O’Malley was unable to activate a fire extinguisher when staff discovered the fire in the reception area of Cameron House on Monday December 18.
The inquiry then heard about the training Mr O’Malley had received while he was working at Cameron House – where he had been employed as a night porter since April 2017.
He claimed to have undertaken a variety of different online training and was shown by a more experienced colleague when he started where the fire exits were and how often he would have to check them during the evening.
Mr O’Malley claimed he had not received training on roll-call procedures, evacuations or fire safety while working at the hotel.
He was asked if he received training on clearing the ashes from the open fires in Cameron House.
Mr O’Malley claimed he was shown by “another night porter” how to clear the ashes one evening and that porter used a chafing dish to clear the ashes.
He was asked by the inquiry if they were provided with any other equipment or training on disposing of the ashes.
Mr O’Malley responded he had “no training whatsoever”.
At Dumbarton Sheriff Court in January last year, he hotel firm admitted failing to take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of its guests and employees between January 14 2016 and December 18 2017.
The company admitted two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.
O’Malley admitted breaching sections of health and safety laws and was given a community payback order.
The inquiry at Paisley Sheriff Court, before Sheriff Thomas McCartney, continues.
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