The mother of a man who died following a hotel blaze felt “tremendous guilt” she was not there to help rescue her son and his partner from the fire that claimed their lives, an inquiry has heard.
Simon Midgley, 32, and his partner Richard Dyson, 38, from London, died following the blaze at the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond, in December 2017.
The fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Paisley Sheriff Court will look at issues around guest and fire safety at the hotel
Sheriff Thomas McCartney held a minute’s silence before the inquiry heard a statement written by Mr Midgley’s mother, Jane Midgley, about her “gregarious” son, who had told her the day before his death that “2018 was going to be our year”.
“It was clear he had so much to live for and I still can’t comprehend how it was all taken away in a blink of an eye,” the inquiry was told.
In the statement, read out by Crown counsel Graeme Jessop, she said the death has had a “devastating effect” on her life, and said her mental health had been severely impacted.
“The events of December 18, 2017, have had a devastating effect on my life. I cannot put into words what it was like to receive the telephone call from the police, telling me that my son had been killed so suddenly and in such shocking circumstances,” she said.
“It has been almost five years of torture since that day, missing my Simon and waiting for him to walk through the door, announcing his presence in his usual way, ‘I’m here, mother dear’.”
The inquiry was told: “Losing a child is heartbreaking and I will never be able to come to terms with it or accept that Simon has gone. Every waking hour I live through what has happened that day, seeing Simon’s face.
“The thought of how he must have felt when he was trapped in that building, fighting to get out, tortures me. He must have been so frightened and I feel tremendous guilt that I was not there to help him.”
The inquiry will determine whether any lessons can be learned to minimise the risk of future deaths.
As the opening evidence was read out, family members cried softly in the court room.
The inquiry heard that post mortem tests on both men found they died from inhalation of smoke fire gases, caused by the hotel fire, suggesting they were alive during the blaze.
Mr Dyson was declared dead by members of the Scottish Ambulance Service after they fought to save his life, while Mr Midgley died at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.
Hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd was previously fined £500,000, and night porter Christopher O’Malley was given a community payback order over the fire.
Dunbarton Sheriff Court heard in January last year that the fire started after O’Malley emptied ash and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag, and then put it in a cupboard of kindling and newspapers.
The hotel firm admitted failing to take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of its guests and employees between January 14, 2016, and December 18, 2017.
The company admitted two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.
O’Malley admitted breaching sections of health and safety laws which relate to the obligation on an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people affected by their acts or omissions at work.
Similar to inquests in England and Wales, an FAI is not a criminal trial but is a fact-finding exercise.