Hotel operator fined £500,000 over safety failings that led to fatal fire

PA

A luxury hotel operator has been fined £500,000 and a night porter given a community payback order over a fire which claimed the lives of two guests.

Simon Midgley, 32, and Richard Dyson, 38, from London, died in the blaze at the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond on December 18, 2017.

Dumbarton Sheriff Court previously heard the fire started after night porter Christopher O’Malley emptied ash and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag and placed it in a cupboard which contained combustibles including kindling and newspapers.

Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd, owner and operator of the hotel, admitted failing to take the fire safety measures necessary to ensure the safety of employees and guests between January 14 2016 and December 18 2017.

Cameron House Hotel fire
Cameron House Hotel fire

The company admitted two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 on January 22.

It was fined £500,000 at the same court on Friday, reduced from £750,000 because of the early guilty plea.

O’Malley, 35, admitted breaching Sections 7(A) and 33(1)(A) of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on December 14, which relate to the obligation on an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people affected by their acts or omissions at work.

He was sentenced to a community payback order on Friday, supervised for 18 months, with 300 hours of unpaid work.

More than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, including a family of two adults and a child who were rescued by ladder and taken to hospital. They were later discharged.

Sentencing O’Malley, Sheriff William Gallacher said: “Your acts on December 18 caused a fire to start in a cupboard in Cameron House Hotel.

Cameron House Hotel fire
Cameron House Hotel fire

“The fire developed from that cupboard and spread to many parts of the building, which had to be evacuated.

“Some guests managed to do that with relative ease, some found it more difficult crawling along corridors to avoid smoke, others had to be rescued by ladder, no doubt some of those who experienced these traumatic events will be affected by them for a long time to come.

“Two others were unable to escape from the fire and, as a consequence of inhaling smoke and fire gases, tragically lost their lives.”

He said he was imposing work in the community as an alternative to custody.

“That’s not an attempt by the court to diminish what happened and the tragic loss of life,” he said. “It’s rather in recognition that it was not remotely in your contemplation that anything you did on December 17 or 18 would have led to the catastrophe which in fact ensued.”

Sentencing Cameron House Resort, Sheriff Gallacher said it was “unacceptable” that the hotel operators did not act on previous advice from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to remove combustibles from the cupboard.

Cameron House victims
Cameron House victims

He added: “I do not consider that the company simply disregarded advice and recommendations but that they were translated or interpreted wrongly or incompletely.”

Sheriff Gallacher also said it was unacceptable that advice from fire experts to develop written procedures for dealing with ashes and embers was not followed.

He said: “Such a course could have been undertaken very easily. Had that been undertaken then much of what happened on December 18 could not have occurred.”

Relatives of the victims, including Mr Midgley’s mother Jane, were in court for the sentencing hearing.

At the court hearing on January 22, Peter Gray QC, representing Cameron House, said the failings were not deliberate breaches but occurred “as a result of genuine errors”.

He said an absence of formal procedures for dealing with ashes and embers gave staff the opportunity to improvise, and he added the resort extended its “deepest sympathies” to the families of Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson.

A decision on whether a fatal accident inquiry will be held into the tragedy is yet to be made.

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