Cameron House Hotel fire: Couple who died in hotel fire were ‘killed unlawfully’, coroner rules

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A man who died in a fire in a luxury Scottish hotel with his friend told his mother that the day before the fatal fire he “drowned in dreams” for his future, an inquest heard today.

PR manager Simon Midgley, 32, and TV producer Richard Dyson, 38, died when the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond was engulfed by fire in December 2017.

A Scottish court had previously heard that the fire started after a night porter removed hot ashes from an open fire and put it in a plastic bag in a cabinet with kindling wood and newspapers.

Earlier this year, hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) was fined £ 500,000 and night porter Christopher O’Malley was ordered to pay a refund from the community after admitting fire safety violations.

Now, in an inquest into the couple’s deaths, a coroner has ruled that Mr. Midgley and his partner Mr. Dyson were “unlawfully murdered.”

PR manager Simon Midgley, 32, and TV producer Richard Dyson, 38, died when the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond was engulfed by fire in December 2017.

Night porter Christopher O'Malley received a refund order from the community after admitting fire safety violations

Night porter Christopher O’Malley received a refund order from the community after admitting fire safety violations

A Scottish court had previously heard that the fire started after a night porter removed hot ashes from an open fire and put it in a plastic bag in a cabinet with kindling wood and newspapers.

A Scottish court had previously heard that the fire started after a night porter removed hot ashes from an open fire and put it in a plastic bag in a cabinet with kindling wood and newspapers.

Firefighters on site after a fire at the Cameron House Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland

Firefighters on site after a fire at the Cameron House Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland

The inquest, held in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, close to the Yorkshire towns of Leeds and Wetherby where the men grew up, was heard today from Mr Midgley’s mother Jane.

She said her son, who lived in North London with his partner, called her from the hotel on December 17, 2017, saying the couple ‘had a fantastic time’ at the Scottish retreat.

Mrs. Midgley, from Pudsey, Leeds, told the inquest: ‘(He told me) I’m drowning in dreams, dear Mother. And I promise life will be good from now on

(He said) I’m so looking forward to spending Christmas with you. Don’t forget my pig-in-blankets. ‘

“Everything was normal, he was so excited.”

Mr. Midgley's mother, Jane (pictured), told an inquest in Wakefield today that her son called her from the hotel the night before the fire

Mr. Midgley’s mother, Jane (pictured), told an inquest in Wakefield today that her son called her from the hotel the night before the fire

The court heard an alarm sounded several hours after the call, at around 6:39 a.m. on December 18, 2017, after staff noticed smoke from a closet.

When the fire ripped through the hotel, more than 200 guests were evacuated before it was determined at 8am that Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson were missing.

Firefighters retrieved them from the second floor, but the couple were found to have died as a result of smoke and burning gases inhalation.

Coroner Kevin McLoughlin told the inquest today that he was concerned about the length of time between the evacuation, before 7am, and the roll call of guests, after 8am.

He said: “In the course of the inquest, the evidence revealed matters of concern. In my opinion, there is a risk of deaths in the future unless action is taken. ‘

The court heard that there was only a physical guest list, which was left at the hotel during the evacuation, and the roll call was not carried out until after the guest list was recovered by firefighters after 8 a.m.

The coroner said he will write to the secretary of state to raise awareness of the matter.

He added: ‘It is important that people can act quickly. I think instead of paper guest lists it is crying out for a technological solution.

A court previously heard that the Cameron House Hotel failed to keep the cabinet containing potential ignition sources free of combustibles and maintain and empty metal bins used to store ash and embers.

A court previously heard that the Cameron House Hotel failed to keep the cabinet containing potential ignition sources free of combustibles and maintain and empty metal bins used to store ash and embers.

More than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, including a family of two adults and a child who was rescued via a ladder and taken to hospital

More than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, including a family of two adults and a child who was rescued via a ladder and taken to hospital

‘My concern stems from a possible delay between the arrival of the fire brigade and determining whether guests are missing.

The roll call took place an hour later [after the fire began]

Mr McLoughlin said the court could be given assistance ‘much faster’ if the protocol were different.

He suggested cloud-based computer guest lists accessible to firefighters could be a solution, but added, “Whether that would have made a difference in this case, we can’t say.”

The coroner said he will include the Scottish authorities in his report, and the matter “deserves explanation and consideration.”

Mr McLoughlin said he had decided he could safely conclude that both men had been unlawfully murdered, despite there being no prosecution for manslaughter in Scotland.

He said a key element of this decision was that the hotel had been “expressly warned” about lax procedures for handling embers from open fire.

A police investigation found that the fire started after night porter O’Malley, 35, removed hot ashes from an open fire and placed it in a plastic bag in a kindling cabinet.

CCTV shows the moment when a devastating fire broke out in a fire star hotel before the entire building was destroyed and two guests died

CCTV shows the moment when a devastating fire broke out in a fire star hotel before the entire building was destroyed and two guests died

CCTV footage was released today of staff trying to fight the flames at the front desk of the Cameron House Hotel

CCTV footage was released today of staff trying to fight the flames at the front desk of the Cameron House Hotel

The Scottish court had previously heard that O’Malley had been told not to put ashes in plastic bags and that the fire service had conducted an audit of the hotel in August 2017 that revealed the risks posed by flammable materials in the closet.

However, despite fire risk assessments conducted in 2016 and 2017, there was no procedure for emptying hot ashes from open flames, according to the court.

In addition to hearing from Ms. Midgley, the court also heard a victim impact statement read by Dyson’s father, Richard, who was tearful on the witness stand.

He said: ‘Richard was engaging, funny company, he was hardworking and talented, he was a gentle and loving person with a beautiful, infectious smile.

He was loved by so many. Richard is and will remain our youngest son. ‘

Ms. Midgley spoke shortly after the two-hour hearing and said she would continue to “fight” for answers about the deaths of her son and Mr. Dyson.

She wants a fatal accident investigation to be carried out in Scotland to determine more about the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident.