Fire service in court over Ewan Williamson death

Firefighter Ewan Williamson died in pub blaze.Picture: PA
Firefighter Ewan Williamson died in pub blaze.Picture: PA
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THE Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were today accused of health and safety breaches following the death of firefighter Ewan Williamson in Edinburgh more than four years ago.

Prosecutors brought charges after Mr Williamson, 35, died while tackling a basement blaze at the Balmoral Bar in Dalry Road, in July 2009.

Around 20 people were rescued from the burning building, but the 35 year-old tragically lost his life after he became trapped.

At the High Court in Glasgow the fire service where faced a total of three charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It includes a claim that there was a failure to prioritise Mr Williamson’s rescue.

Mr Williamson at the time worked for the then Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Board before the new service was formed in April this year.

The first allegation claims the necessary “instruction and supervision” was not provided to employees.

This includes an accusation that there was a lack of appropriate training for firefighters in relation to tackling basement fires.

The second charge states the fire service failed to provide “a system of work” that was safe and without risks.

Prosecutors allege there was not an adequate response to Mr Williamson becoming trapped within a toilet on the ground floor in the bar.

The indictment goes on to detail there was a failure to appropriately “prioritise his rescue” and utilise the relevant equipment to save him.

It is further claimed there was not a proper response to a breathing apparatus emergency situation.

The charge also alleges there was a failure to have in place an effective communication system between fire fighters.

The final and third accusation claims there was not a “suitable and sufficient risk assessment”.

This includes an allegation of not identifying adequate control measures in conditions of “restricted visibility and extreme heat”.

Peter Gray QC, representing the fire service, today said there will be a challenge to the “competency and relevancy” of the charges.

Judge Lord Turnbull set a debate on this issue due to take place at the High Court in Edinburgh on December 6.