Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

Firefighters want justice for Josh after leaked shock report

Published

on

A SHOCKING draft report into the circumstances of the death of a firefighter in Pembrokeshire in 2019 is firmly pointing the finger at senior management, despite two firefighters being dismissed before the conclusion of the criminal investigation.

Multiple members of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS), The Fire Brigade Union and The Fire Authority have contacted this newspaper expressing disgust and grave concerns that action has not been taken to rectify systemic failings which could ‘lead to another death in the future.’

The Herald has been investigating this matter for months, and our team has met with many sources alleging that MAWWFRS are trying to ‘brush their failings under the carpet’ to avoid accountability for their part in the death of Milford Haven Firefighter Josh Gardener. He died in a boat training exercise aged just 35-years-old, on September 17, 2019.

A hard-hitting report published by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) in February 2021, into the circumstances surrounding the death which was labelled ‘avoidable’ blamed “systemic, organisational and procedural failings”.

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highlighting Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service documentation and procedures for boat operations were out of date, unclear and presented confusing safety messages to the reader.

At the time of the report, the Fire Brigade Union issued a statement on the findings. In that statement they said: “The issues identified in this report must be addressed and individual firefighters must not be blamed for systemic, organisational, and procedural failing.”

Milford Haven County Councillor, Stephen Joseph, who also sits on the Fire Authority said: “A number of firefighters past and present have raised their concerns with me over this investigation and the failings of the Fire Authority management.

Cllr Joseph who has the fire station in his ward added: “I am becoming increasingly concerned about what I am hearing and reading.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to read the complete draft FBU report however, I have been quoted sections which are quite damning.

“I am very proud to be a serving member of the Fire Authority Panel and their Health & Safety Champion. I will be demanding that the report is brought into the public domain and that those responsible for any mistakes made are held accountable, whatever position they hold.

“Josh Gardener was a friend of mine and I am unhappy about the time it is taking for things to come into the light.

“It upsets me greatly if this coming into the press again is upsetting for Josh’s family, but I feel strongly that we owe it to Josh, his family and other serving firefighters to have the incident fully and correctly investigated and for justice to be brought.”

Josh (centre) with colleagues

A former senior Fire Brigade Union representative added his thoughts on the report, he said: “Having had experience of how it is run, I would agree with the findings – it highlights the common traits exhibited by the service.”

Our sources all tell of a fear about speaking out and highlighting safety concerns. The Herald asked him what members of the service should do to highlight them, he said: “An atmosphere that exists within the service has been cultivated out of fear and intimidation.

“The Fire Brigade Union is always a good place to start to raise concerns”

He added: “A life has been lost, the service is so divorced from the top to the bottom, to those up top this is not the loss of life of one of their own like it is for those on the front line.”

SCAPEGOATS FOR MANAGEMENT FAILIURE

The fire service has terminated the employment of two Milford Haven firefighters because of Josh’s death, yet, no senior management have been held accountable. Allegations that the firefighters have been made scapegoats for failing at the top level have been made.

It is alleged that the two firefighters’ employment was terminated based on their behaviour on the day in question, but why has no one senior been held accountable for their part in the now obvious health and safety failings – which included serious breaches such as not issuing the trainees with helmets.

The Herald asked the service if they think that the sacking of two firefighters was justified based on the findings of the report, and if individual firefighters can be held accountable for their actions, why has the same not been applied to senior members of management. They have refused to comment on that point. A MAWWFRS spokesperson said only: “As investigations by external bodies remain ongoing and a date for a full inquest by the HM Coroner for Pembrokeshire has yet to be set, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time”.

Multiple sources have told this newspaper that members of the service, The Fire Authority and The Fire Brigade Union have brought up the findings in the reports regularly and asked about justice for Josh in senior management meetings. The answer is: “the investigation is ongoing” and “stop asking questions!”.

Serving firefighters have told this newspaper that they will not stop asking questions and will continue to voice their concerns until justice for Josh has been served, and clear lessons have been learnt so no more lives are lost.

THEY KNEW CREWS WEREN’T COMPETENT

Since the MAIB report was published, the Herald has been given possession of a document which shows that concerns were raised by the crew at Milford Haven about their abilities to operate the ribs, just six weeks prior to Josh’s death.

In a form, presented to the Assistant Chief Fire Officer at the time, Iwan Cray, on August 7, 2019, it says: “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?”

As per the service’s safety protocol, if crews are not competent to use any apparatus, or their qualifications are out of date, then it is pulled out of circulation until competency is regained. We asked the service, why wasn’t the rib taken off service until crews training were back to the standard that was required to operate them safely. No reply was given.

The foreknowledge of the lack of competency was mentioned within the draft report. It says: “Another example of an apparent dichotomy arises with a different ACO, who, six weeks before Josh died, was formally notified of the lack of competence in boat crew in Milford Haven.”

It added: “However, despite the extensive ignorance, MAWWFRS knew that crews were not competent.”

Rib: Craft taken away for examination (Pic MAIB)

INTERNAL INVESTIGATION

An internal investigation was launched by MAWWFRS following Josh’s death, however the officer in charge of the investigation was the same officer who the concerns were raised to about the shortcomings in the crew’s ability to operate the ribs. In another blow to the credibility of the internal investigation, our sources have confirmed that the same principal officer is also the Head of Health & Safety for the service.

The Herald has asked the fire service, based on the conflict of interest that the documents highlight, if they felt that the appropriate person was appointed to conduct said investigation. No comment from the fire service on this point either.

The draft report refers to this claim, it says: “He then became the corporate lead on the investigation into Josh’s death but perplexingly no mention was made of this ACO’s foreknowledge of the lack of competence of boat crews.”

HEALTH & SAFETY FAILURES

The Herald has been presented with significant amounts of material, which suggests that the service is dragging its heels in dealing with Josh Gardener’s death.

Between two reports, one by the MAIB and the draft report leaked to this newspaper we can now publish that the main failures which lead to Josh’s death are:

  • No risk assessments carried out
  • The operation of the boats did not adhere to the requirements of the local standard operating procedures
  • 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
  • No ppe given so nobody was wearing helmets on the rib
  • Rescue 1 (the big rib) did not have the correct number of members on board to meet the minimum occupancy required to operate it
  • 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
  • Hand held radio were issued without checks
  • No lookouts were in place 
  • 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
  • Instructors qualifications were years out of date
Funeral: Hundreds lined the streets to pay their respects (Pic M Cavaney)

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

The criminal investigation into the death of Josh involved multiple agencies under the Work Related Death Protocol, which has been run by Dyfed-Powys Police, MAIB, The HSE and The Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The MAIB released a report into their findings into the death of Josh in February 2020.

Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed their involvement in the criminal investigation concluded at the end of February and their findings have been reported to The Health & Safety Executive and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

A Police spokesperson said: “Our investigation has concluded and been passed on to the Health and Safety Executive and Maritime and Coastguard Authority.”

A HSE spokesperson said: “Following the conclusion of Dyfed-Powys Police’s investigation, primacy for the continuing criminal investigation under the Work Related Death Protocol is joint between the Health and Safety Executive and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.  The investigation is continuing.”

An MCA spokesperson said: “A joint investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Health and Safety Executive is currently ongoing. It would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

News

Major changes to Highway Code come into force today

Published

on

FROM today (Jan 29), the biggest update to the Highway Code in four years takes place in an effort to improve the safety of the most vulnerable road users.

The changes will have implications for anyone that uses the roads – such as cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

A hierarchy of road-users will be introduced, ensuring quicker or heavier modes of travel have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others on the road.

Cyclists will also receive fresh guidance to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions in order to make themselves as clearly visible as possible.

They’ll also be reminded they can ride 2 abreast – as has always been the case and which can be safer in large groups or with children – but they must be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

Meanwhile, motorists will be encouraged to adopt the so-called ‘Dutch Reach’ (as shown below), opening the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes told The Herald: “These changes to the Highway Code are substantial, so it’s vitally important they are communicated clearly.”

“In theory, they should make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians, but unless everyone is aware of them, there’s a risk of angry clashes and, worse still, unnecessary collisions.”

“Nobody wants to be on the right side of the Highway Code changes but in the back of an ambulance because of confusion on the part of a driver or any other road user.”

What’s changed and why?

The revised Highway Code comes into effect from 29 January 2022, following calls to protect vulnerable road users. There are a significant number of changes but, from a driver’s perspective, some of the biggest are:

  1. creation of a new ‘hierarchy of road users’ that ensures those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others
  2. clarify existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing the road
  3. provide guidance on safe passing distances and ensuring cyclists and horse riders have priority when travelling straight ahead at junctions

‘Hierarchy of road users’

new-highway-code-shared-path

The ‘hierarchy of road users’ is a concept that places road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. The system is used to create a special set of rules numbered H1H2 and H3 but importantly doesn’t remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.

The hierarchy places road users in order from most to least at risk of being injured, like so:

  • Pedestrians – children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk
  • Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles
  • Drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, vans/minibuses, cars/taxis, and motorcycles

Rule H1 applies to all road users and says that it’s important that everyone is aware of the Highway Code and their responsibility for the safety of others. The rule reminds us that it may not be obvious that other road users may have impaired sight, hearing or mobility.

Pedestrian priority

new-highway-code-zebra-crossing

Rule H2 applies to drivers, motorcyclists horse-drawn vehicles, horse riders and cyclists. It reads:

“At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.”

From January 2022 a pedestrian waiting to cross should be given priority. Previously, drivers were told to give way to pedestrians if they ‘have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road’. The change also appears in the revised Rule 170.

Rule H2 also advises drivers on pedestrian priority at zebra crossings. Rule 195 goes into more detail and tells us that drivers:

  • MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing
  • SHOULD give way when a pedestrian is waiting to cross

Although drivers are asked to give way more often, pedestrians still have a responsibility to cross safely. A new addition to Rule 8 makes it clear that pedestrians should ‘cross at a place where drivers can see you.’

Safe passing distances

new-highway-code-pedestrian-in-road

Rule 163 previously said: “Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake.” The revised rules go into more detail about what ‘too close’ means.

The following advice has been added:

  • When overtaking a cyclist: Drivers should leave 1.5 metres distance when overtaking at speeds of up to 30mph. Drivers should leave at least 2 metres’ of space at higher speeds.
  • When overtaking horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles: Reduce your speed under 10mph and allow 2 metres of space.
  • When overtaking a pedestrian walking in the road (where there is no pavement): Allow 2 metres of space.

The guide distances should be increased in bad weather and at night. If you’re unable to overtake motorcyclists or other road users using the distances mentioned above, you should wait behind them until it’s safe to do so.

Other rules

new-highway-code-cycle-lane

Many of the other significant changes relate to Rule H3, which applies to drivers and motorcyclists:

“You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.”

The rule applies when a cyclist is using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road. And it can also be seen in the amended Rule 160.

Also, you shouldn’t turn at a junction if it would cause a cyclist or horse to stop or swerve out of danger’s way.

Rule 72 is new for 2022 and instructs cyclists about their position in the road. There are two basic positions which cyclists should adopt depending on driving conditions.

Cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane:

  • on quiet roads and streets
  • in slower-moving traffic
  • when approaching junctions or narrow roads

Cyclists should keep 0.5 metres away from other vehicles and allow them to overtake if:

  • vehicles are moving faster than the cyclist
  • traffic starts to flow more freely

Another change to the Highway Code influenced by ‘The hierarchy of road users’ is Rule 140, which now asks drivers:

  • to give way to any cyclists in a cycle lane, including when they are approaching from behind
  • do not cut across cyclists when you are turning or changing lane

The updated rule reminds road users that cycle tracks can be shared with pedestrians and that cyclists are not obliged to use them.

Continue Reading

News

Wales completes move to alert level 0

Published

on

THE MOVE completes the Welsh Government’s phased lifting of the alert level 2 protections, which were put in place on Boxing Day to keep Wales safe as the omicron wave swept across the country.

Some important protections will remain in place at alert level 0, including mandatory face coverings in most indoor public places, including on public transport.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the relaxation of protections was possible thanks to the hard work of everyone in Wales and the success of the vaccination programme – more than 1.8 million booster doses have been given.

And, since the start of December, more than 36,000 people have come forward to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have passed the peak of this omicron wave and there are encouraging signs that cases of coronavirus may be starting to stabilise. But we all need to continue taking steps to stay safe – unfortunately the pandemic is not over yet.

“We are moving to alert level 0 and we will retain some important protections, such as face coverings in most indoor public places and risk assessments.

“We can do this thanks to the hard work and efforts of everyone in Wales and the remarkable success of our vaccine and booster programmes. Thank you all.”

On Friday 28 January, Wales will complete the move to alert level 0. This means:

  • Nightclubs can re-open.
  • The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
  • The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
  • Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details. The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.
  • Working from home will remain important but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus, which may include 2m social distancing or controlled entry.

Face-covering rules, which apply on public transport and in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and nightclubs.

Everyone must also continue to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus but the Welsh Government has reduced the self-isolation period from seven to 5 full days.

People are advised to take 2 negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on days 5 and 6. The self-isolation support scheme payment will return to the original rate of £500 for all those who are eligible.

The next 3-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10 February, when all the measures at alert level 0 will be reviewed.

Continue Reading

News

‘Handyman’ took money from elderly victims but failed to do any work

Published

on

A ‘HANDYMAN’ who took money from two elderly couples but never turned up to do any work has admitted a series of unfair trading charges.

Denzil Michael Thomas – also known as Mick Thomas – took deposits for the work before firing off a host of excuses and ignoring calls and questions from the victims.

Thomas appeared before magistrates in Haverfordwest on January 13 and pleaded guilty to five offences under the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 following an investigation by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Trading Standards team.

Magistrates heard that this was Thomas’ fourth appearance in court for breaching consumer protection law.

The first couple contacted Thomas after seeing an advert for ‘Branching Out Garden Services’ in a local shop.

Thomas, of St Mark’s Close, Merlins Bridge, visited and agreed to carry out work totalling £460.

The victims asked for a copy of the contract but it never materialised.

Thomas asked for half of the money up front to purchase materials but had to settle for £70 which was all the couple had.

Thomas then failed to return to complete the work – giving the victims a series of excuses claiming he was waiting for materials, his van had broken down and that a workmate could not accompany him ‘due to social distancing’.

The couple then contacted Thomas to cancel and asked for the £70 to be refunded.

Despite numerous phone calls and promises, the money was never refunded. The victims even offered to drive to his home to collect the money.

At various times Thomas told them he lived at Eglwyswrw and then at Llangoedmor.

The second complainants contacted Thomas about replacing a short length of wooden fence using wire and metal posts that had already been purchased.

Thomas gave a verbal estimate of £900 and said he would need a payment of £280 to start work the following week.

A cheque was written and cashed but no paperwork was handed over.

Thomas did not return and stated the work would begin the following week.

A ‘self-isolation period due to Covid’ followed and when the complainant opted for a refund Thomas claimed a family member would draw the money out and arrange to meet the couple to hand it over.

Thomas said he wanted to do it that way rather than posting the cash as he wanted a receipt.

Thomas phoned the complainant to say his son would phone him to drop off the money shortly but nothing further was heard from him

Thomas admitted:

  • two offences of contravening the requirements of professional diligence (one for each couple),
  • two offences of making a misleading omission of failing to provide a contract with material information that he has a duty to provide, including details of the contract, the address and contact details of the business and the consumer right to a 14 day cooling off period (one for each couple)
  • one offence of making a  misleading claim as to the geographical or commercial origin of the business.

Magistrates sentenced Thomas to 36 months conditional discharge and ordered him to pay compensation of £70 to the first complainants and £280 to the second complainants.

Thomas must also pay £750 towards the Council’s costs and a victim surcharge of £22.

Sandra McSparron, Pembrokeshire County Council Lead Trading Standards Officer, said: “It is disappointing that despite being previously advised of the legal requirements for doorstep agreements, Mr Thomas knowingly failed to provide consumers with the required paperwork.

“He was quick to call out and take deposits yet giving a refund proved much more difficult.

“He misled these consumers as to the whereabouts of his business to evade any chance of redress and gave them false hope that he would initially refund their money using a smokescreen of excuses.

“I am always grateful to consumers who report instances of doorstep crime.”

Continue Reading

News1 day ago

Wales completes move to alert level 0

THE MOVE completes the Welsh Government’s phased lifting of the alert level 2 protections, which were put in place on...

News2 days ago

‘Handyman’ took money from elderly victims but failed to do any work

A ‘HANDYMAN’ who took money from two elderly couples but never turned up to do any work has admitted a...

News2 days ago

Judge set to sentence Neyland man following horrific Castle Square attack

A 20-YEAR-OLD Neyland man has been sent to Swansea Crown Court for sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of...

News3 days ago

County Hall tribute for Holocaust Memorial Day

COUNTY HALL in Haverfordwest will be lit in purple on Thursday 27th January for Holocaust Memorial Day. Holocaust Memorial Day...

News3 days ago

Self-isolation period cut to five days in Wales

PEOPLE who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to leave self-isolation after five full days if they have two...

News4 days ago

Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives

THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government...

News5 days ago

Appeal following road traffic collision on Salutation Square, Haverfordwest

POLICE in Haverfordwest attended a road traffic collision which occurred at approximately 2.45pm today, Monday 24th January 2022, on Salutation...

News5 days ago

Pembroke Dock child rapist Stephen Bladen died whilst serving prison sentence

A PEMBROKE DOCK paedophile, jailed for 21 years for child rape and sexual assault, died last year whilst serving his...

Community5 days ago

Residents wanted to aid Newgale coastal adaptation project

PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is looking for people to get involved in the Newgale Coastal Adaptation scheme through a number of...

Entertainment5 days ago

BBC Wales Investigates: Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight

TONIGHT 24/1/22, 7.30pm, BBC One Wales THE FAMILIES of two men who died within weeks of each other after incidents...

Popular This Week