A local Irish authority has been charged in court over the deaths of two hero firemen whose families were befriended by New York firemen grieving for their dead 9/11 tragedy colleagues.
Wicklow County Council faces fines of up to €12 million if convicted of breaches of health and safety laws in the deaths of Mark O’Shaughnessy and Brian Murray.
Murray, a 47-year-old father of 15, and 25-year-old O’Shaughnessy, died in a fire almost four years ago when they were trapped by a collapsing ceiling in a disused factory in the seaside resort of Bray.
New York firemen who survived the 9/11 tragedy were among mourners at their funerals.
The FDNY members flew to Ireland especially to pay tribute to the memory of Murray, who had befriended the New York officers when he helped in the clean-up at Ground Zero in March 2002. He also arranged for a number of New York firefighters who survived the 9/11 disaster to spend St Patrick’s Day 2002 in Bray.
FDNY’s Peter Savarese, who joined a guard of honor at the funerals, said at the time, “Losing a fellow firefighter is like losing a brother. It’s like losing a family member.”
On Tuesday this week Wicklow County Council was charged at Bray District Court over the deaths of Murray and O’Shaughnessy.
No charges were brought against any named individual, but the council faces four counts of breaches of health and safety laws after a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Authority and Gardai (police).
If found guilty, as a corporate entity, the council faces a maximum total fine of €3million for each offence.
Prosecutors claimed that the council put O’Shaughnessy and Murray at unnecessary risk, failed to provide a back-up crew quickly enough, gave inadequate training, and provided ineffective communication.
The families of the two men have always maintained the deaths were not the result of an accident, but a consequence of council policies.
Murray’s widow Mary claimed he was docked part of his final pay check – because he didn’t finish the shift in which he lost his life.
She said angrily at the time, “Brian couldn’t finish the shift because he was burning to death. They had the cheek to tell me that technically he didn’t finish the hour so therefore he didn’t earn his wage.”
Judge Murrough Connellan adjourned the case until October 11 when the book of evidence is expected to be served before the case moves to the higher Circuit Court for trial.
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