The owner of Cameron House hotel has been fined £500,000 over a fire which killed two men.
Simon Midgley, 38, and his partner Richard Dyson, 32, died after the blaze at the five-star hotel, next to Loch Lomond, on December 18, 2017.
The fire started after a night porter left ashes and smouldering embers from an open fire in a plastic bag inside a cupboard which contained combustibles including kindling and newspapers.
Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd, the owner and operator of the hotel, admitted health and safety failings and was fined half-a-million pounds at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Friday.
The fine would have been £750,000 had it not been for the company’s guilty plea.
Cameron House said it apologised “unreservedly” for the failings and said “awful accident should never have happened”.
A spokesperson added: “Nothing can ever atone for the losses which the Midgley and Dyson families have endured. However, in redesigning and reconstructing the hotel, we have incorporated a comprehensive range of fire safety measures.”
Night porter Christopher O’Malley, who admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, was given a community payback order, told to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and will be supervised for 18 months.
A sheriff told O’Malley, 35, he was not being sent to prison because the fire wasn’t started deliberately and he had not been given proper training to dispose of the ashes.
Sheriff William Gallacher said: “Your acts on December 18 caused a fire to start in a cupboard in Cameron House Hotel.
“The fire developed from that cupboard and spread to many parts of the building, which had to be evacuated.
“Some guests managed to do that with relative ease, some found it more difficult crawling along corridors to avoid smoke, others had to be rescued by ladder, no doubt some of those who experienced these traumatic events will remember it for a long time to come.
“Two others were unable to escape from the fire and tragically lost their lives.”
Baby rescued from blaze
TV producer Mr Midgley, from West Yorkshire, died at the scene of the fire, which began just after 6.30am. Mr Dyson, a 32-year-old freelance journalist from Nottingham, was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, where he was pronounced dead.
More than 200 guests were evacuated from the building, including a family of two adults and a child who were rescued from the second-floor.
The hotel remains closed for refurbishment and is expected to reopen in the second half of this year.
Advocate depute Michael Meehan QC previously described the events on the night of the fire at a hearing on January 22.
He told the court: “On December 18, Christopher O’Malley removed ash and ember from the fire, put it in a bucket, emptied it into a plastic bag and put it in the concierge cupboard.
“As a result of the accused’s (Cameron House Hotel) failure to keep the cupboard free of combustibles, it still contained various combustibles including kindling and newspapers.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation determined that an ember or embers within the ashes ignited and fire spread to the kindling and other combustibles. From there it spread within the main building.”
The court heard the hotel operator had been warned of the risks of keeping combustibles in the cupboard following a fire service audit in August 2017, and the general manager had then highlighted the issue to staff.
Cameron House Hotel admitted it failed to have in place safe systems of work in respect of the removal and disposal of ash and embers from the hotel’s solid fuel fires and maintenance and emptying of metal bins in the rear yard for storing ash and embers.
It also admitted it failed to keep cupboards containing potential ignition sources free of combustibles and failed to ensure employees were provided with the necessary instruction, training and supervision in respect of the safe removal and disposal of ash and embers from the hotel’s solid fuel fires.
Peter Gray QC, representing Cameron House, said the failings were not deliberate breaches but occurred “as a result of genuine errors”.
He said an absence of formal procedures for dealing with ashes and embers gave staff the opportunity to improvise, and he added the resort extended its “deepest sympathies” to the families of Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson.
Mr Gray said the hotel takes its duties to ensure the safety of its guests extremely seriously.