Family backs new report into firefighter safety

Firefighter Joe McCloskey
Firefighter Joe McCloskey

The widow of a firefighter who died on duty in Northern Ireland has welcomed a report into firefighter safety calling for action to prevent more fatalities.

Joe McCloskey from Dungiven was tackling a fire at the Gorteen Hotel in Limavady on October 31, 2003. when he fell through the roof of a store room to his death.

Joe’s widow, Marie has welcomed a new report by the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, which says risk assessment, risk management and training needs to be improved. The report - funded by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - looked into 14 deaths of firefighters in the UK in the last 10 years.

Marie McCloskey said: “As a family, we welcome anything that prevents an unnecessary loss of life because, at the end of the day, the Fire Service is an essential service and behind every firefighter there is a family, and no one should have to endure what we endured that night and what we are still going through. We are living a nightmare. The heart has been ripped out of this family,” Marie told the ‘Journal’.

There is a warning in the report that good practice has sometime been ignored.

“Unnecessary deaths happened in avoidable circumstances. Risks were sometimes taken to save property that should not have been. Risk assessment and risk management failed in some way and in some form in all the fatalities described here. Lessons were not learnt that should have been. Deaths could and should have been prevented,” concluded the report by Professor Andrew Watterson.

The report provided a series of key recommendations to address firefighter safety and recommended action to improve risk assessment and training.

Marie said: “The Fire Service is an essential service and everyone, at some stage, will need the Fire Service and it’s ordinary men like Joe doing it. I never thought I would hear of other families enduring what we did, and are continuing to endure. All firefighters need to work in a safe environment.”

Marie McCloskey added that her family will never give up on their campaign for ‘Justice for Joe’.

“Not until I draw my last breath will I give up hope,” said Marie.

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: “The Department has not received any invitation for the Minister to meet with the McCloskey family. The Minister is extremely sympathetic to the McCloskey family who lost their husband and father in the most tragic of circumstances, and all invitations will be considered as they come in. However, the Minister will also be mindful that his predecessor undertook a robust review of the evidence available in order to come to his determination, and that no new evidence has come to light.”