Alison Hume inquiry report: damning verdict on fire service management

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The report of the inquiry into the death of Alison Hume, the Ayrshire mother of two who fell into an open mineshaft in Galston in 2008 and died after being left for hours while rescue services debated what action to take, has found that her death could have been avoided.

The report damns the senior management of the fire services, saying that Mrs Hume’s injuries were “survivable”, but that she died after senior fire officers showed “rigid compliance” with health and safety procedures.  As a result of the inaction of the rescue services, Mrs Hume was left for 8 hours before being rescued during which time she developed hypothermia and suffered a heart attack.  She died later in hospital.  

The report found that Mrs Hume’s death could have been avoided if fire chiefs had taken certain “reasonable precautions”.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley MSP Willie Coffey said:

“I welcome the publication of this report. But it simply confirms what Alison’s family have felt since day one – that their daughter died as a result of incompetence at senior levels in the service, and red tape which held back the professionals on the ground from doing their job.

“I know that Alison’s family felt that previous inquiries into this tragedy had fallen far short of providing an explanation – this report hopefully goes at least some way in addressing that.

“But there are still many serious questions that Strathclyde Fire and Rescue have to answer. They must explain why their policy on improvised line rescue remained ‘fundamentally unchanged’ until just a couple of weeks ago – almost four years after this tragic incident occurred. What would have happened if something like this had happened in the meantime?

“Mr Torrie’s comment that – in relation to this tragic incident – Strathclyde Fire and Rescue is ‘not a learning organisation’ is extremely worrying.  It is a damning indictment of the senior management of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, and those involved should be considering their positions.”