THE family of hero firefighter Ewan Williamson have offered to “freeze” their damages claim against the fire service if the Crown Office decides to prosecute anyone over his death.
The firefighter’s mother and sisters launched the legal action in a bid to push the Crown into deciding whether to prosecute or mount a fatal accident inquiry.
Their solicitor, Syd Smith, said the family’s patience had been getting “thinner and thinner”, prompting them to pursue a civil case in an effort to speed up any decision.
But Mr Smith said the case lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh could be put off if the Crown confirms its intentions following the conclusion of a joint investigation by police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Ewan, aged 35, was killed on July 12, 2009 as he fought a blaze at the Balmoral Bar in Dalry Road.
Mr Smith told the Evening News: “The family didn’t expect this to have to reach a court. They’re very reluctant and damages is very much the last thing they are thinking of.
“They only had three years from the time of Ewan’s death to lodge a court action and we’re up to two years and nine months. They’d hoped and expected to have a decision from the Crown on prosecutions or a fatal accident inquiry. We don’t know why it has taken so long. This civil court action can be frozen pending any decision from the Crown.
“The family’s patience has been getting thinner and thinner. Their approach is that there needs to be a full investigation and if something went wrong that night, and obviously something did, then that needs to be known to prevent the same happening to other firefighters.”
Mr Smith said he was unable to disclose the grounds for the damages claim against Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue board, but said the step was taken as the family believed “mistakes” were made which led to Ewan’s death. The HSE probe revealed concerns about the use of firefighter radio equipment which could see communications disrupted in some buildings, prompting checks by fire chiefs. The report said it was not blaming the radio alterations for the tragedy.
A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “This is a highly complex investigation by HSE and Lothian and Borders Police.
“The report will be considered by the health and safety division before a final decision is taken on further proceedings.”
Edinburgh South West MP Alistair Darling said: “Nearly three years is a very long time to wait. I can understand why the family want to know what happened and it would be for the good of the fire service, too.”
RECOGNISE HIS COURAGE
THOUSANDS of people have signed an Evening News petition calling for Ewan Williamson to be awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, and the campaign is continuing.
The medal bid, backed by former chancellor Alistair Darling, calls on officials to bestow the highest gallantry award on the firefighter. Mr Darling filed a formal nomination in November 2009. The process was delayed while police and the Health and Safety Executive probed the circumstances of Ewan’s death.
Mr Darling, whose Edinburgh South West constituency includes the fire site, said Ewan’s bravery should be “properly honoured”.