Hotel blaze survivor tells of ‘horrendous’ impact on family

Hannah Munns and her family were staying at the Cameron House Hotel when a fire broke out in December 2017.

12 January 2023

A mother who escaped a hotel fire which claimed two lives said her 10-year-old son still suffers from anxiety and has trouble sleeping five years later.

Hannah Munns was staying at the Cameron House Hotel with her husband and then five-year-old when the fire broke out in December 2017.

They were in a room opposite Simon Midgley, 32, and his partner Richard Dyson, 38, from London, who died when flames tore through the five-star hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) was held at Paisley Sheriff Court last year to establish if lessons could be learned from the disaster.

Cameron House Hotel fire
Simon Midgley, right, and Richard Dyson died in the fire (Family handout/PA)

In a determination published on Wednesday, Sheriff Thomas McCartney said there were “a number of defects in systems of working which contributed to the accident resulting in the deaths” and made a number of recommendations.

Mrs Munns said although she and her family managed to escape, the fire has had a major impact on her son.

She told the BBC: “It has been horrendous. What I am most emotional about is my son.

“He was five and is now 10 and he still doesn’t sleep. He won’t be away from us. He won’t stay away from us.

“He won’t do all the things that a normal 10-year-old would do because he has experienced that moment that you realise you are not going to live forever.”

She added: “He learnt at five years old that these things can go wrong and, as such, he has got really serious anxiety issues.

“It just breaks my heart that he has learnt so young that these things can go wrong.

“And it impacts his life day in, day out.”

The fire started after hot ashes were placed in a concierge cupboard in the main reception area.

Cameron House Hotel fire
The hotel was badly damaged (Crown Office/PA)

Hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) was fined £500,000, while night porter Christopher O’Malley was given community service.

In his 122-page FAI determination, Mr McCartney ruled all operators in Scotland should “have in place up to date and robust procedures, informed by an assessment of risks, to ensure that ash from open fires in hotels is removed and disposed of in a safe manner, thereby avoiding the risk of fires being started by the careless disposal of ash”.

He also recommended that the Scottish Government should consider introducing a rule for a sprinkler system – or “active fire suppression system” – to be made a requirement when historic buildings are converted into hotels.

Mr McCartney concluded Mr Midgley and Mr Dyson died as a result of the “inhalation of smoke and fire gases due to the hotel fire”.

Mrs Munns, from Leeds, welcomed the report’s publication.

She said: “It feels like someone has listened and the real issues have come through.

“They are recognising all those things that went wrong which could have prevented the two men from dying.”

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard in January 2021 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 containing kindling and newspapers.

The hotel firm admitted failing to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of its guests and employees between January 14 2016 and December 18 2017.

It admitted two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.

O’Malley admitted breaching health and safety laws relating to the obligation of an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people affected by their acts or omissions at work.

Since the hotel reopened in September 2021, there have been revised fire safety procedures in place and new fire safety measures including sprinklers and updated alarms, the inquiry was told.

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