Families welcome inquiry into North Sea gas leak
SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate yesterday finally bowed to public pressure and ordered a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two workers in a massive gas escape on a North Sea platform two years ago.
News that Colin Boyd QC had overturned a decision against holding a public inquiry was welcomed last night by offshore union leaders and relatives of the men who died.
Keith Moncrieff, of Invergowrie, near Dundee, and Sean McCue of Kennoway, Fife, were killed on Shell's Brent Bravo platform in September 2003.
Mr Moncrieff, 45, a mechanical technician, and Mr McCue, 22, a trainee operations technician, died when they were engulfed in a gas escape inside the platform's utility leg.
Last April, at Stonehaven Sheriff Court, Shell was fined a record 900,000 for safety failings on the platform.
But the failure of the Crown Office to order a fatal accident inquiry following the prosecution sparked a storm of protest. Yesterday, however, the Crown Office revealed that the Lord Advocate had ordered an inquiry to be held after reviewing the earlier decision.
A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "Crown counsel's original decision took into account the significant inquiry that had already been made in the course of investigations leading to the successful prosecution of the employer at Stonehaven Sheriff Court.
"While fully understanding that approach, the Lord Advocate has concluded, on personal consideration of the case, that it is in the wider public interest for a fatal accident inquiry to be held.
"The Procurator Fiscal will now apply to the Sheriff for a fatal accident inquiry to be held. The Fiscal has been in touch with the next of kin to keep them informed."
The U-turn was welcomed by relatives of the men who died and trade union leaders who had been campaigning vigorously for a full public inquiry.
Keith Moncrieff's brother, Neil, said: "We just want to know how it happened - how they sent my brother and Sean down the leg when they knew the pipe was leaking and it had a patch on - just so it doesn't happen to anybody else."
Jake Molloy, the general secretary of the oil workers' union OILC, said: "We welcome the news. We believe there are as many questions that remain unanswered as there are pounds paid by way of the fine by Shell."
A spokesman for Shell said: "Shell UK Ltd is aware that the Lord Advocate has reversed the earlier decision and that a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of the two men on the Brent Bravo offshore installation will now be held."
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