the date of July 12, 2009, will never be forgotten by the family, friends and colleagues of hero firefighter Ewan Williamson.
His great courage, and that of his colleagues, as they tackled the blaze at the Balmoral Bar in Dalry should always be remembered. But Ewan’s sacrifice deserves far more than that – it deserves action.
There are, firstly, lessons that have to be learned to ensure that firefighters are never needlessly exposed to the same kind of risks again. That is vitally important.
But the changes need to run far deeper than that. Change is needed to our justice system which is currently not fit for purpose. It is astonishing that it has taken more than five-and-a-half years to get to this point.
The intervening time would have been agony for those closest to Ewan regardless of subsequent events. But the way in which things have unfolded has made it far harder than it should have been.
It has been impossible to get answers to even the most basic of questions about what happened that night as the wheels of justice ground at an imperceptible pace.
It is simply wrong that families should be put through this additional ordeal. Sure, it takes time to investigate events – forensic tests, for instance, can be complex and time-consuming, but there is no good reason for an investigation to take anywhere near the length of time that this has taken.
Apart from the human suffering, such long delays threaten the very process of justice, as people’s memories fade the further we get from the events of that terrible night.
Ewan’s family was extremely dignified throughout. It beggars belief that it had to, with extreme reluctance, threaten to sue his former employers in order to break the impasse that was giving them no information about how their son died. A true memorial to this brave young man would be overhauling the fatal accident inquiry system so that no other family has to go through the same thing.