Man who died in hotel fire had cuts on hands from trying to escape, inquiry told

·3 min read

A man who died trying to escape a fatal hotel fire with his partner had cuts and blood on his hands from trying to smash his way out of a window, an inquiry has heard.

Richard Dyson, 38, and his partner Simon Midgley, 32, from London, died following the fire at the five-star Cameron House hotel in December 2017.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry into the blaze at the hotel, situated on the banks of Loch Lomond, near Balloch, is being held at Paisley Sheriff Court.

Firefighter Phillip Douglas, 35, told the inquiry he found the body of Mr Dyson as he searched the hotel corridors.

Cameron House Hotel fire inquiry
Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson (Family handout/PA)

Poor visibility meant Mr Douglas and his colleagues were sweeping the floors and walls with their hands and feet to check the situation around them.

“I kicked what I thought was a bit of debris from the hotel,” he told the inquiry. “But I realised at the time it was actually the leg of a person. It became apparent it was a casualty.

“There was no visibility at the time. I tried to put my torch on but I couldn’t see anything.”

Mr Dyson was unconscious and had blood on his hands from trying to smash his way out of the inferno.

Mr Douglas told the inquiry he and his colleagues had previously been told to evacuate the hotel over fears of the building collapsing.

He told the inquiry that, upon his return, conditions at the stairwell where Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley’s bodies were located had significantly worsened.

“I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face at that point,” said Mr Douglas as he recalled the scene prior to finding Mr Dyson’s body.

The family of Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley became distressed as the inquiry heard the details and were shown photographs of the window and the belongings left by the men trying to escape.

Paul Stewart
Paul Stewart gave evidence on Friday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The inquiry had previously heard that the couple had tried to smash a window with a picture frame to escape the blaze.

They had only been able to smash through one pane of the laminated, double-glazed window.

Paul Stewart, 50, was the deputy assistant chief officer on duty on December 18 2017 – the morning of the fire at 128-room hotel.

He arrived at the scene just before 8am and had been briefed by colleagues when he heard Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley were unaccounted for.

Cameron House Hotel fire
The Cameron House hotel was severely damaged in the fire (Crown Office/PA)

He told the inquiry the “primary objective” was to locate the two men.

And he said he he had “faith” and “trust” in the fire officer tasked with assisting with a roll call.

He said: “During the incident, I appointed a roll call officer on arrival in order to gain as much information we could about people who were missing.

“My faith and trust in the commander doing that was fairly sound.”

Hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd was previously fined £500,000, and night porter Christopher O’Malley was given a community payback order over the fire.

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard in January last year that the fire started after O’Malley emptied ash and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag, and then put it in a cupboard of kindling and newspapers.

The hotel firm admitted failing to take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of its guests and employees between January 14 2016 and December 18 2017.

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

O’Malley admitted breaching sections of health and safety laws 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.

The inquiry continues.