A gas fitter was yesterday committed for trial accused of causing the deaths of two teenage friends just over three years ago.
At North Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Coleraine, Deputy District Judge Peter King said he was satisfied on the evidence he heard that there was a prima facie case against 52-year-old plumber George Brown and so was referring the case to the Crown Court.
Judge King said he was “well aware of the nature of the tragedy” which had befallen the families but that his duty was not to perform a “dry run” of a trial but to decide if Brown had a case to answer.
“Two young men died from carbon monoxide poisoning,” said the judge, “the source of that carbon monoxide was from an incorrectly fitted flue which had dislocated at the elbow join.
“That flue was part and parcel of the boiler installation which the apartment owner had arranged with the defendant whose fingerprints was found on one section of it.”
Brown, from the Ballygawley Road in Aghadowey outside Coleraine, is accused of the manslaughters of 18-year-old friends Aaron Davidson and Neil McFerran on August 3, 2010.
Neil and Aaron, both from Newtownabbey, died after a deadly gas leak occurred while they were staying in a holiday apartment in Castlerock, Co Londonderry. Their friend Matthew Gaw, who was also in the seaside apartment at Tunnellbrae at the time, survived.
The pals, who were all prefects at Glengormley High School, had gone for a weekend away before they got vital exam results but their parents became alarmed when they did not come home.
They rushed to the luxury apartment, finding Aaron and Neil unconscious having been overcome with carbon monoxide fumes while Matthew was groggy but alive.
As well as the charges of causing the teenagers’ deaths, Brown was ordered to face a trial on 15 counts of failure to protect non-employees, being unqualified to carry out work, failing to ensure competency, installing a gas appliance to an unacceptable standard and failing to test a connection.
The alleged breaches of gas safety regulations relate to work he carried out on a number of properties in Coleraine, Portrush, Ballycastle and Portstewart, including a Chinese restaurant, between March and August 2010.
In committing Brown to trial, District Judge King said it was clear that the plumber “was not qualified to undertake such work”.
Earlier, prosecuting lawyer Roseanne McCormick had presented evidence which the Crown submitted amounted to a prima facie case with defence lawyer Peter Sefton making counter submissions on many of the points.
The alleged facts and circumstances, however, are subject to a court-imposed reporting restriction in case Brown’s trial is prejudiced.
Following the judge’s decision, a short form of the 21 counts were put to Brown who confirmed that he understood them.
Releasing Brown on continuing bail, Judge King adjourned the case until November 15 when he will be arraigned at Laganside Court.