A FIRE officer, who was criticised in an inquiry into the botched rescue of a mother trapped in a mineshaft, has been promoted to a key role at next year’s Commonwealth Games, it emerged yesterday.
The family of Alison Hume were angered when it emerged that Paul Stewart will be in charge of fire safety at the Glasgow 2014 event. Stewart was criticised by a sheriff at the fatal accident inquiry into Hume’s death for describing the abortive rescue as “a success”.
Hume died after lying down the disused mineshaft for six hours, while firefighers argued about how to rescue the 44-year-old lawyer and mother of two girls.
When Stewart arrived on the scene, initially as a media officer, he decided to take control of the operation and stopped firemen going down to get her.
Sheriff Desmond Leslie singled out Group Commander Stewart and colleague Billy Thomson for particular criticism, saying their evidence was focused on self-justification for the action or non-action taken by them.
Leslie said: “I found their evidence to be bullish, if not arrogant, in their determination to justify the subservience of the need to carry out a rescue to the need to fulfil to the letter Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service Brigade policy.”
Hume died of hypothermia having suffered survivable, though life-threatening injuries. Her stepfather Hugh Cowan, 70, of Ayr last night said: “I am very upset, particularly at the timing of this promotion. They have demonstrated huge insentitivity in promoting this man to a position of seniority in a high-profile public event.
“We do not yet know who, if anyone, is likely to be charged with serious offences because of Alison’s death.”
The Crown Office is still investigating the incident. Stewart was employed by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue at the time of the accident, but his employment transferred to the new single service in April.
A spokeswoman for the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service confirmed Stewart has been promoted to area manager, one position up from his group commander status at the time of the accident five years ago.