Cameron House fined £500,000 and hotel porter given community service after fatal fire


Cameron House Hotel in Scotland has been fined £500,000 after breaching fire safety rules that resulted in a blaze which claimed the lives of two guests.

Night porter Christopher O’Malley has also been given a community payback order to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.

Cameron House pleaded guilty to charges under the Fire Scotland Act of failing to take fire safety measures, after Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard how O’Malley put a bag of ash and embers into a cupboard containing kindling and newspaper.

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The actions resulted in the devastating fire in December 2017 that killed hotel guests Simon Midgley and his partner Richard Dyson and injured others.

Christopher O’Malley, who put the bag in the cupboard, admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, but his lawyer said he deeply regretted his actions and did not deliberately start the fire.

At the sentencing, Peter Gray QC, acting for Cameron House, said the failings were not deliberate breaches but occurred “as a result of genuine errors”.

He also told the court the fire had gone undetected for a long period before being discovered, and that the hotel had a “suite of measures in place” to deal with fire safety.

After the sentencing, Alistair Duncan, head of the Health and Safety Investigation Unit, said: “The failings on the part of Cameron House Resort and Christopher O’Malley led to the deaths of Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson.

“This incident should serve as a reminder to other companies that failure to implement the necessary fire safety measures can have terrible consequences.”

At around 04.00 on December 18, 2017, O’Malley cleared ash and embers from a fireplace in the Cameron House reception into a metal bucket and then proceeded to empty the contents into a bag.

He then placed the bag into the concierge cupboard, which also contained flammable materials including kindling, newspapers and cardboard, the Court heard on Friday.

Around 40 minutes later a fire alarm alerted staff to the smoke coming from the cupboard. O’Malley opened the door and the flames spread out to the hall. Despite trying to distinguish the flames, with the help of other two others, the fire was too strong.

At the time, around 200 guests were staying at the Cameron House.

Dumbarton Sheriff Court head that the hotel did not have proper procedures in place for the disposal of ash, or for training staff.

The Court also heard that three days before the incident, O’Malley and another night porter were told not to put ash into plastic bags because it was a fire hazard.

Cameron House staff were found not to have been trained properly in the safe disposal of ash, with no procedures in place for emptying the metal ash bins outside the hotel on a regular basis.

Sheriff William Gallacher also heard that the introduction of such measures were recommended in two fire risk assessments carried out in 2016 and 2017 and managers warned about the risks of storing combustibles in the concierge cupboard.

The audit highlighted the potential danger of fire spreading rapidly through the building because of its age and voids.

An absence of formal procedures for dealing with ashes and embers gave staff the opportunity to improvise, it was heard.

About 70 firefighters fought the blaze at the main building of the hotel, where the roof had collapsed.

Cameron House Hotel is due to fully reopen later this year after a complete restoration project.

Tags : Cameron House HotelScotland
Zoe Monk

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