DCSIMG

Extra safety device a good idea, says carbon monoxide deaths case judge

Police and Fire service at the scene  in Castlerock in County Londonderry.

Police and Fire service at the scene in Castlerock in County Londonderry.

A top judge yesterday advised homeowners that “for peace of mind” they might think it “worthwhile” to install additional safety devices on their central heating equipment which would not only sound an alarm but also close boilers down on detection of carbon monoxide fumes.

Mr Justice Weir’s comments came as he heard from a defence expert in the case of former store owner George Brown, who has admitted the manslaughter of 18-year-old Newtownabbey students Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson, who died in August 2010 after being overcome by the poisonous gas in a holiday flat in Castlerock.

The Coleraine Crown Court judge, sitting in Belfast, had been inquiring about the possibility of the existence of such a safety device which could prevent such “a tragedy” ever occurring again.

Mr Justice Weir was told by David Taylor, a leading expert in the field of gas appliances, that such devices were mainly for “commercial application” but agreed that they were “available to the domestic consumer” from retail outlets.

Mr Taylor said that what was required was a combination of devices – one to sound an alarm, the other to shut off the boiler – and both should retail at around £270, plus the all-important cost of installation by a qualified engineer.

“A machine which will detect carbon monoxide and be able to close down the system seems to be a very good idea ,” said Mr Justice Weir, despite apparent disagreement from prosecution experts who did not think the measure was cost effective given that the guarantee only ran for up to two years.

“For peace of mind you might think it worthwhile,” said Mr Justice Weir, who added later that “this case, at the end of the day, is about the way in which the installation was carried out”.

Brown, 52, a father-of-two from Ballygawley Road in Aghadowey, stands to be sentenced today for the students’ manslaughter, and for a string of other charges including health and safety breaches relating to work undertaken at the apartment in Castlerock, as well as defective workmanship carried out by both him and his employees in and around the greater Coleraine area. An investigation into the installation revealed there had been a failure to properly secure a joint in the flue system, which allowed carbon monoxide to leak into the apartment, something easily avoided “with just a little bit of care”. Defence QC Eilis McDermott has already told the court that, as a result of the fatalities, Brown “closed his business on the day that he heard about the deaths of the two young men, and he hasn’t opened it since”.

Brown, 52, a father-of-two from Ballygawley Road in Aghadowey, stands to be sentenced today for the students’ manslaughter, and for a string of other charges including health and safety breaches relating to work undertaken at the apartment in Castlerock, as well as defective workmanship carried out by both him and his employees in and around the greater Coleraine area. An investigation into the installation revealed there had been a failure to properly secure a joint in the flue system, which allowed carbon monoxide to leak into the apartment, something easily avoided “with just a little bit of care”. Defence QC Eilis McDermott has already told the court that, as a result of the fatalities, Brown “closed his business on the day that he heard about the deaths of the two young men, and he hasn’t opened it since”.

 
 
 

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