Cameron House fire inquiry: Two men who died in inferno tried to smash open window

Two men who died after being stuck in a burning hotel had tried to smash open a window to escape the inferno, an inquiry has heard.

A blaze at the five-star Cameron House Hotel claimed the lives of Simon Midgley, 32, and his partner, Richard Dyson, 38, from London in December 2017.

A fatal accident inquiry into the blaze at the hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond, near Balloch, is being held at Paisley Sheriff Court.

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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

Gary Love, a fire investigator, told the inquiry how he found evidence the couple had tried to escape from the blaze.

“I noted that a large picture frame was on its side directly below the window of the second floor landing,” the 57-year-old said, describing the area of the hotel where the men’s bodies were found.

He said the “frame had been prised from the adjacent wall, most likely with the intention to be used to smash the window”.

The now retired investigator for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told Crown Counsel Graeme Jessop that what they had been trying to break through had been a laminated double glazed window, which could not be opened, and had managed to break through only one pane.

Mr Love told the inquiry his investigation found the blaze had started in the concierge cupboard of the Grade B listed building, and inside they found evidence of a galvanised bucket, kindling and a shovel.

He told the inquiry more than 75 per cent of the main building of the 128-room hotel had been “severely damaged” in the incident.

Mr Love said his conclusion was the fire was accidental, and was most probably the cause of a careless act.

“Ashes have a low thermal conductivity, consequently, it’s not rare for individuals to believe ashes are dead while in reality hot or smouldering embers are still contained within,” he told the inquiry.

Mr Love told Sheriff Thomas McCartney that studies have shown embers causing a fire hours after, and could smoulder for days.

Darren Robinson, the hotel’s night manager at the time, was giving evidence to the inquiry earlier on Tuesday and was shown footage of night porter Christopher O’Malley filling a black plastic bag with ashes and putting it into the cupboard.

In one part of the footage, O’Malley put the ashes in as he was talking to another hotel employee.

Mr Robinson said: “It’s not something I would have done” , and added it was a “fire risk”.

He did not know the ashes had been put there until he saw video footage, the inquiry was told.

Mr Robinson was alerted to the pre-alarm and he and O’Malley went to try and find the cause.

Moments later, the inquiry was shown, O’Malley opened the door to the cupboard he had previously placed the ashes in where he and a member of the public found the source of the fire.

Smoke soon began to fill the room, and Mr Robinson put down his fire marshal pack and list of guests, and picked up a fire extinguisher.

But at this point, Mr Robinson told the court, he felt there “was no point”.

“It was too big and it was more important to get people out,” he told Mr Jessop.

The inquiry continues.

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