The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has been fined £54,000 after admitting health and safety breaches in connection with the death of a firefighter from Kinross.
Ewan Williamson (35) died as he tackled a blaze in the basement of the former Balmoral Bar in Dalry Road, Edinburgh, on July 12, 2009.
At the High Court in Edinburgh today (Friday) Lord Uist paid tribute to the ‘courage, dedication and professionalism’ of the former Kinross High School pupil.
Passing sentence, the judge said a fine of £60,000 would have been imposed if not for the early guilty plea by the SFRS. He said the case fell at ‘the lower end of criminal culpability’.
The SFRS had previously admitted breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act, including failing to train firefighters to maintain close personal contact and failing to have in place effective systems of radio communication and implementation of procedures for firefighters using breathing apparatus at the time.
The court heard last month how Mr Williamson had become separated from his colleague as they exited the smoke-filled bar. He died after becoming trapped in a toilet.
Colleagues desperately tried to rescue him from the smoke-logged building as the floor began to give way on to the blazing basement, where the careless disposal of a cigarette in an office is believed to have sparked the fire.
The court heard how his death has had a ‘devastating effect’ on his mother, Linda, and older sisters Rebecca and Rachel, with whom he had a close relationship, as well as partner Lynsey Baird, with whom he shared a home in Barnton.
Mr Williamson – the first firefighter in the history of the Lothian and Borders Fire Service to die in the line of duty – was described as a ‘dedicated and reliable member of the team’ whose loss had been felt keenly by all of his colleagues.
In a heartbreaking twist, Mr Williamson was on annual leave at the time but had offered to do overtime to make up for a shortage of staff.
The sentence is the culmination of a five-year battle for justice for the brave firefighter, who had been a member of the Green Watch at Tollcross fire station since 2003.