Apology for fireman’s death

Fire fighter Joe McCloskey. LV16-701MML
Fire fighter Joe McCloskey. LV16-701MML

A review into the death of County Derry fire-fighter Joe McCloskey in a hotel blaze on Hallowe’en night, 2003, has led to an apology being issued to his family.

The review, initiated by former Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, uncovered a series of failings in relation to the circumstances which led to the Dungiven fire-fighter’s death.

The NI Fire & Rescue Service this week confirmed that the Chief Fire & Rescue Officer has written to Mr McCloskey’s wife Marie and family, “offering an unreserved apology, for failings following the death of Leading Firefighter Joe McCloskey”.

It is understood the letter of apology was issued back in May.

Joe McCloskey (50) died in a blaze at the Gorteen House Hotel, Limavady, on the night of October 31 2003.

He died in a store room at the hotel after the roof he was working on collapsed, dropping him into the flames below. The father-of-five suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body.

His family have long campaigned for the full truth of what happened to be fully investigated.

The Fire & Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “NIFRS accepted the findings of the review and has revised and amended policies in line with review recommendations.

“NIFRS admitted liability for Joe McCloskey’s death in May, 2007 and sincerely regrets the irreplaceable loss which the McCloskey family have experienced following the tragic death of Leading Firefighter, Joe McCloskey.”

Mr. McCloskey’s widow Marie, however, has since rejected the apology, stating that the letter didn’t mean anything to her personally, and that her family should never have had to fight for 15 years to get to this point.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill, meanwhile, said the recommendations must be fully implemented by the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.

She said: “I want to again pay tribute to Joe’s widow Marie and his family. They have fought a long campaign for the full circumstances of his death to be made public.

“As Health Minister, I established the review in order to assist them in that and its outcome is a vindication of their determination and persistence.

“It should not have taken so long to get to this stage but I hope it can bring them some degree of comfort.”

Ms. O’Neill added: “The recommendations must also be implemented in full to ensure that lessons from this tragedy are learned and that we never again witness a repeat of the failings in this tragic case.”