FAI DETERMINATION SUMMARIES
Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) are held following a death in the workplace or in cases which give rise to reasonable suspicion. They are usually held in the sheriff court, but may be held in other premises when appropriate. Summaries provide the main findings in order to assist understanding and may be published in cases where there is wider public interest. They do not form part of the reasons for the findings.
Simon Midgley and Richard John Dyson
Jan 11, 2023
These include three procedural recommendations for hotel operators in Scotland; and a recommendation that the Scottish Government consider a requirement for future hotel conversions in historic buildings to include a fire suppression (sprinkler) system.
Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson were partners who lived in London. Mr Midgley worked as a freelance travel journalist and it was in the course of his work that the pair were booked to stay at the hotel in Balloch for two nights.
On the morning of 18 December 2017, night porter Christopher O’Malley removed ash from an open fireplace in the hotel restaurant. He placed the ash in a plastic bag and stored it in the concierge cupboard shortly before 4am.
Shortly after 6.30am, staff were alerted to a fire and noted that smoke was coming from the concierge cupboard. Flames took hold and quickly spread to the hallway.
Hotel guests evacuated the building, but it was not until after 8am that Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson were noted as missing. Firefighters carried out a search of the premises and Mr Dyson was found on the second floor showing no signs of life. He was taken to the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Paisley where he was pronounced dead at 9.35am. Mr Midgley was discovered unresponsive on the fire escape passageway and was pronounced dead by paramedics at 9.13am.
The cause of death for both men was inhalation of smoke and fire gases due to the hotel fire.
Sheriff McCartney determined that a reasonable precaution would have been for the hotel to have a clear system of work for the safe cleaning and removal of ash from open fireplaces.
A further reasonable precaution would have been for the hotel to have a sprinkler system installed.
Defects in systems of working
The sheriff found that defects in the systems of working which contributed to the accident included: the careless disposal of ash; the lack of standard procedures for dealing with ash; the absence of appropriate equipment; metal bins in the service area being full and unable to hold any more ash; and combustible material being stored in the concierge cupboard.
Other facts relevant to the circumstances of the deaths
The inquiry found that a delay in obtaining a guest list to ascertain who was missing was also relevant to the deaths, as well as an alteration to a previous fire safety report without appropriate checks. The presence of hidden voids in the hotel which allowed the rapid spread of smoke was also noted, and how the Building and Fire Safety Standards for hotels applied to older buildings.
The sheriff recommended that all hotel operators should have up to date and robust procedures in place to deal with ash disposal from fireplaces and to promptly ensure all persons are accounted for in the event of an evacuation. All staff – in particular night shift staff – should also have experience of evacuation drills.
The Scottish Government should also consider introducing a requirement that any future hotel conversions of historic buildings include an active fire suppression system; and that the government constitute an expert working group to explore the existing fire risks within similar premises.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also received a recommendation to reduce the time periods between fire safety audit inspections and issuing a written outcome report.
Sheriff McCartney added that a victim impact statement from Jane Midgley, Mr Midgley’s mother, informed the inquiry of the impact of his death.
The determination states: “They were clearly talented young men with a great deal to contribute. They were committed to each other and to their families. It is not surprising that their passing has had a devastating impact on family and friends.”
The Sheriff concluded by expressing his deepest sympathies and condolences to both families.
The full Determination published on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website is the only authoritative document.