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Firefighter’s ‘avoidable’ death blamed on bad management

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A HARD hitting report into the circumstances surrounding the death of firefighter Josh Gardener in 2019 has blamed systemic, organisational and procedural failings by the local fire service.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) criticised the senior management at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue, specifically highlighting documentation and procedures for boat operations. Those were out of date, unclear and presented confusing safety messages to the reader.

Josh Gardener, tragically died aged just 35-years-old, during a training exercise conducted by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) in September 2019.

At about 1125 HRS on 17 September 2019, two fire and rescue service boats were in collision while undertaking boat training and familiarisation in the Milford Haven waterway, resulting in Josh Gardener sustaining fatal injuries.

The collision occurred because both boats were operating at speed and carrying out un-coordinated manoeuvres in the same stretch of the river. The manoeuvres resulted in the boats heading towards each other, and actions taken to avoid a collision were unsuccessful.

Josh joined the fire service in 2018 and was well-known in Milford and he was also a keen footballer.

In what has been described as a ‘totally avoidable death’, questions will now be raised as to whether lessons have been learned within the fire service.

The Herald has obtained evidence to show that Firefighters from Milford Haven station brought up their concerns about the large rib, which killed their colleague Josh Gardener, just a few weeks prior to his death.

The station report, dated August 7, 2019, shows firefighters stating they did not have the training or skills needed to operate the rib, and had asked for management to take action.

Within the report, they said: “Skill sets have eroded with regards to the large rib. Are we likely to be upskilled to be able to perform our duties within our risk area, at present we can’t? “

The concerns were not addressed.

The MAIB report showed a number of safety failing which lead to the avoidable death of Josh Gardener, including;

  • no-one was in overall charge of the training and familiarisation activities, so they were not properly managed, briefed or communicated between the crews of both boats
  • the operation of the boats did not adhere to the requirements of the local standard operating procedures or risk assessments
  • the standard operating procedures for all fire and rescue service boats in the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service were insufficient in content and contained incorrect information
  • the Fire and Rescue Services in the United Kingdom did not operate boats to a common standard or code of practice when not employed on flood rescue duties

The chief Inspector of Marine Accidents told The Pembrokeshire Herald in a statement: “This tragic accident could have been avoided had the training activities been properly planned and communicated to all the fire and rescue crew on the water that morning. It was unnecessary for the two boats to be operating in close proximity to each other in a wide stretch of the River Cleddau.

“Neither of the boat’s crew were aware of the other’s intended activities, nor were they keeping an effective lookout as they manoeuvred at speed.

“Our investigation found that elements of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service documentation and procedures for boat operations were out of date, unclear and presented confusing safety messages to the reader. In addition, it was found that at a national level, fire and rescue service boats are not being operated consistently to a recognised standard when not on inland flood rescue duties.

“Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service has taken a number of actions following this investigation, but I have recommended that it also review the qualifications required of its boat crews and implement measures to maintain crew competency. I have further recommended that the National Fire Chief’s Council work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to introduce a standard code for the operations of its water craft.”

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has welcomed the report.

Andy Dark, FBU assistant general secretary, said: “Josh’s death was an avoidable tragedy that occurred during a training event which should have been well-planned and well-controlled.  Our thoughts today are first and foremost with his family and the FBU will continue to provide as much support to them as possible.

“We have seen all too many fatal and near-fatal incidents involving firefighters undertaking water training, both inland and now, in this case, in tidal waters. The report’s recommendations appear to address both categories, which will be crucial to preventing further losses of life.

“The issues identified in this report must be addressed and individual firefighters must not be blamed for systemic, organisational, and procedural failings.

“We broadly support the recommendations of this report, which must be implemented swiftly and carefully, with full oversight of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. Ministers should take serious note of the need for national standards in this area and develop a comprehensive set of statutory minimum standards for all fire and rescue services in the UK.”

Despite the report showing the safety failing coming from top-level organisational failings, The Herald understands that no senior officers have been held reprimanded or held accountable for the failing which tragically killed Josh.

However one source has told us that two firefighters had been sacked.

The Herald contacted Dyfed-Powys Police and HSE to see if they intended to prosecute anybody for the avoidable death of Josh Gardener following the MAIB report.

A  Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “Our investigation is ongoing.”

A HSE spokesperson said: “The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has had a specific role to identify cause of accident in this case and has subsequently published a report.  MAIB are not part of the criminal investigation.

“The criminal investigation is being conducted under the auspices of the Work Related Death Protocol led by Dyfed Powys Police who are being assisted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.  Those investigations are continuing and enforcement decisions will be made when they are complete.” 

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked to comment.

Josh Gardener’s funeral in Milford Haven was attended by hundreds. (Pic Herald)

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Pembrokeshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Pembrokeshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Pembrokeshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

  •           Get self-care advice
  •           Be told how to get any medicine you need
  •           Find out what local service can help you
  •           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
  •           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one
  •           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

 

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Trial date for son accused of killing mum

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THE SON of Judith Rhead, 68, who was found dead in her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock on Feb 20 will now appear in Crown Court again in October.

Dale Morgan, 43, said to be a scout master, appeared in court only to confirm his name, date of birth and address – which was listed as Honeyborough Green, Neyland.

A plea and trial preparation hearing date was set for March 26 with a provisional trial date set for October 4.

He was remanded in custody.

In court papers it stated that the alleged murder took place between December 10, 2020 and February 21, 2021.

The paperwork demonstrates that the police are unsure of the exact date that Ms Rhead died. The large date range, two months, points to the likelihood that this will be a challenging case for all those involved.

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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