‘Shoddy’ gas fitter killed teenagers

Neil McFerran who died
Neil McFerran who died

A gas fitter who admitted causing the deaths of two teenagers by carbon monoxide poisoning oversaw shoddy and dangerous workmanship, a judge has told a court.

Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson were overcome by noxious fumes at a holiday apartment in Castlerock, Co Londonderry in 2010.

George Brown, 52, carried out work he was not competent to do and admitted his criminality, a prosecution barrister told Belfast Crown Court.

Part of the flue from a new gas boiler became dislodged and filled the flat with the odourless killer.

Mr Justice Weir said: “This was characterised by shoddy, dangerous workmanship and this man presided over it.”

He said far more people could have died because Brown was responsible for many other gas installations.

“At least it has brought to light that this man and his business were going around this area carrying out substandard and dangerous gas installations,” he said.

Prosecution barrister Frank O’Donohue QC said: “The breach of duty was so serious as to constitute gross negligence.”

Neil and Aaron, 18, from Newtownabbey near Belfast, retired to bed on August 3, 2010. They never woke up.

Their friend Mathew Gaw was also in the apartment and woke on the bathroom floor with no idea how he had gotten there, Mr O’Donohue added, stumbling into the living room and talking to his father on the phone, who said he sounded drunk.

Mr Brown, from Ballygawley Road in Aghadowey, ran a gas shop in Coleraine and was asked to investigate a problem at the apartment in 2010.

He recommended replacing the boiler and flue and converting the burner from natural gas to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

Experts concluded that part of the flue had separated because sections were not secured properly. Brown initially blamed a joiner for dislodging the flue. He failed to answer questions during interview but his fingerprints were found on the flue, Mr O’Donohue told the court.

Mr Justice Reg Weir said: “When things went wrong he wanted to shuttle the blame off onto someone else.”

Mr Brown pleaded guilty to two manslaughter charges and a further 19 involving failures to comply with health and safety legislation. The case was adjourned for sentencing on Thursday.