Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
June 17, 2021

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Prosecutions

Full inquiry to be held into Cameron House hotel fatal fire which led to two deaths and £500,000 fine

A luxury Scottish hotel, Cameron House Resort, was fined £500,000 for breaches of fire safety legislation following a fatal fire in December 2017 and has now implemented a suite of fire safety measures for its reopening due later this year. A full inquiry will be held into the incident. 

Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd pleaded guilty to two charges under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 of failing to take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of employees and guests at Cameron House. These included having no proper procedures, training and supervision for the disposal of ash and embers from the hotel’s open fires, failing to keep a cupboard free of combustibles, and failing to maintain and empty metal bins used for the storage of ash and embers.

Christopher O’Malley, 35, a hotel night porter, was given an 18-month supervision order and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to a breach of health and safety legislation.

In August 2017, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service carried out an audit which highlighted the unacceptable storage of combustibles in the cupboard. In the early hours of 18 December 2017, O’Malley had disposed of ash in a plastic bag and put it in the cupboard which contained kindling and newspapers – in spite of being told three days earlier not to put ash into plastic bags. Although a fire alarm sounded at 06:39 AM and staff noticed smoke coming from the cupboard, the fire took hold and flames quickly spread, due to voids in the walls and ceiling of the cupboard.

Two of the guests – Simon Midgley, 32, and Richard Dyson, 38 – died in the fire from smoke and fire gas inhalation. More than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, some of them having to crawl along corridors and others rescued by ladder.

Stuart Stevens, Assistant Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said:

“This needless loss of two lives could have been prevented. This sends a very clear message to businesses and organisations across Scotland that fire safety must remain of highest importance, and that all appropriate measures must be taken to protect the public and their staff.

“The requirement to act on our advice should not be underestimated, and our enforcement officers will continue to support and advise those responsible for the safety of their premises wherever possible.”

Following the sentencing last week, a spokesperson for Cameron House said:

“Firstly, we wish to underline our deepest sympathies towards the families of Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley. They have conducted themselves with dignity and bravery at all times and we once again unreservedly apologise to them for our part in the failings which led to this terrible tragedy.

“This awful accident should never have happened and, as we have made clear throughout the court process, our plea reflects a full acceptance of our part in the sequence of events leading to the fire, which had such devastating consequences.

“Nothing can ever atone for the losses which the Midgley and Dyson families have endured. However, in redesigning and reconstructing the hotel, we have incorporated a comprehensive range of fire safety measures which include a modern ‘water mist’ fire suppression system throughout the entire building, a full fire detection and alarm system, strictly compartmentalised floors and fire-rated walls in every bedroom.”

Speaking to SHP (Safety & Health Practitoner), Lynne Gray, Partner at Burness Paull LP, noted: “This tragedy is a stark warning to businesses that they should, beyond just fire safety, ensure there is a clear understanding of relevant duties, open communication and a culture of compliance within their workforce when it comes to health and safety.”

Though originally announced that a Fatal Accident Inquiry would not go ahead, the Crown Office has reviewed its decision after an appeal from Jane Midgley – the mother of one of the victims. The Crown Office noted the wider public interest around the safety of guests and building fire safety for key reasons as to the decision.

Footage from the event from STV News can be watched in the video below. 

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