Hotel blaze firefighters didn’t know guests were missing – investigation

Firefighters attending a fatal blaze at a hotel did not realize there were missing guests as they battled the flames, an inquest has heard.

The fire at the five-star Cameron House Hotel claimed the lives of Simon Midgley, 32, and his partner, Richard Dyson, 38, of London, in December 2017.

An investigation into a fatal accident at the hotel hell on the shores of Loch Lomond, near Balloch, is underway at Paisley Sheriff Court.

The inquest had previously learned how the two men had tried to break a window to escape from the burning hotel.

Graham Atwell testified on Wednesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Their bodies were later found on the second floor landing by firefighters.

Graham Atwell, a retired shift commander at Balloch Fire Station, was among the first firefighters to arrive at the 128-room hotel.

Before the crews arrived, they had been alerted that a couple and their son were trapped in a room on the top floor and that firefighters were preparing to rescue them.

Mr Atwell said he spoke to the hotel duty manager when he arrived.

Russell MackayRetired firefighter Russell Mackay’s crew took part in the firefighting (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Atwell, who had around 35 years of firefighting experience before retiring, told the inquest: ‘I don’t specifically recall speaking to him to ask if everyone was out of the hotel, except for the only family we knew at the window.

“But I remember being happy everyone got out and I think (the duty manager) was happy everyone got out of the hotel.

Mr Atwell said ‘put life first’ was the first instruction always carried out by firefighters at the scene of an incident, and he told the inquest that his team would not have carried out firefighting if he had thought that there were trapped people.

Following the successful rescue of the family of three, Mr Atwell asked the duty manager if a roll call had been made.

He told the inquest he was told the formal process could not move forward because staff did not have a guest list.

Mr Atwell retrieved the guest list from reception and a call began as guests were taken to the nearby boathouse.

An update from Mr Atwell’s fire department at 7.10am said officers were still trying to determine if a roll call had been made.

At 8:16 a.m. the crew was informed that the occupants, Mr. Midgley and Mr. Dyson, were missing.

Asked by the tax prosecutor what made him happy that all the bodies had been found earlier in the morning, Mr Atwell said: ‘It was one of the first conversations I would have.

“After the conversation with the manager on duty, I was quite confident that everyone was out.

“I don’t remember asking directly or being told, but I was convinced there was no one left.”

Earlier the inquest heard from Russell Mackay, 58, a retired watch commander at Dumbarton Station.

His crew, along with a crew from Balloch, were rescuing the family of three from their top-floor bedroom.

Mr Mackay’s crew, who were initially largely responsible for putting out the blaze, changed their strategy as soon as they ‘knew they were missing casualties’, the inquest heard.

Firefighters were unaware Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson were missing when they first entered the hotel, he said.

Mr Mackay said: ‘If we had found out the number of people and where they were at the time, we could have contacted them more quickly.

Hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd has already been fined £500,000 and night porter Christopher O’Malley has received a community reimbursement order for the fire.

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard in January last year that the fire started after O’Malley dumped ashes and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag and then put them in a cupboard kindling and newspapers.

The hotel company has admitted that it did not take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of its customers and employees between January 14, 2016 and December 18, 2017.

The company admitted two counts of breaching the Fires (Scotland) Act 2005.

O’Malley admitted to violating sections of the health and safety laws that relate to an employee’s duty to take reasonable precautions for the health and safety of those affected by their acts or omissions at work .

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