Hotel blaze survivor tells of ‘horrendous’ impact on family

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 incident.

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 he 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.

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

“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.

“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.

“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.

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.”

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

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.

Andy Roger, Cameron House resort director, said: “The publication of the inquiry’s report is an important milestone for everyone involved, and especially for the Midgley and Dyson families who lost their loved ones.

“In all our dealings with them over the past five years, they have borne their grief with great bravery and dignity.

“We have gone to enormous lengths to ensure that Cameron House was rebuilt to the most exacting fire safety standards possible, combined with intensive staff training.

“We will now review the inquiry’s report in detail to see what further lessons can be learned.”