Cameron House fire inquiry: Night manager 'absolutely horrified' at porter clearing out ashes

A night manager told the inquiry into a fatal fire at a luxury hotel in 2017 she was “absolutely horrified” when she saw a porter clearing out the ashes of a log fire using a plastic bin bag.

Giving evidence on Monday at the inquiry into the devastating blaze at Cameron House, near Balloch, on the banks of Loch Lomond in December 2017, night manager Ann Rundell said she challenged the porter when she saw him clearing out the ashes of a log fire within the reception area of the hotel on December 15, 2017.

The fire claimed the lives of Simon Midgley, 32 and his partner, Richard Dyson, 38, from London.

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Ms Rundell told Paisley Sheriff Court she challenged night porter Raymond Burns and, when asked what she had said to him, replied: “I said to him, ‘what the f*** do you think you’re doing?’

Simon Midgley (right) and Richard Dyson. A fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of the two men in the fire at Cameron House in 2017 has started. Picture: Family handout/PA Wire
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“I was absolutely horrified.”

But Ms Rundell was later challenged on this account when the court was played CCTV footage of December 15, 2017. The fatal fire occurred on December 18.

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The footage showed Mr Burns removing the ashes in a clear bag.

The court was also shown CCTV footage from the hotel on November 29, 2017, when Mr Burns was shown clearing the ashes from the fire, again, using a clear plastic bag with water inside.

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Ms Rundell appeared to watch him carrying out this task, but did not appear to challenge him on this.

She told the court: “I can assure you that conversation took place.”

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During Ms Rundell’s evidence, the court heard how staff received no formal training on clearing the embers from the log fires Cameron House had in their grill, bar and reception area.

Ms Rundell said equipment was not maintained and staff would often have to obtain chafing dishes and ice buckets from other parts of the hotel.

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A few weeks before the fire, a metal bucket that had previously been used to clear ashes was missing a handle, which Ms Rundell knew about, but believed it was the responsibility of the day shift to replace.

She was later asked about an instruction not to store flammable materials in the concierge’s cupboard, where items such as newspaper and kindling were kept.

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She told the court she did not recall being given the instruction not to store flammable items in the cupboard.

The court also heard how staff were trained by more experienced members of the team.

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Night staff working at the hotel did not participate in fire drills regularly.

Ms Rundell said staff were expected to “use common sense” and learned through “word of mouth” what they were expected to do in the event of an emergency.

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She was asked if there was ever an attempt to provide the correct equipment to staff members. “No,” she replied.

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.

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The inquiry at Paisley Sheriff Court before Sheriff Thomas McCartney, continues.