Belfast Telegraph

Detectors 'will not stop tragedy'

Compulsory carbon monoxide detectors will not alone prevent another gas poisoning tragedy in Northern Ireland, a Stormont minister has said.

Sammy Wilson has faced calls to amend building regulations in the wake of the deaths of teenage school friends Aaron Davidson and Neil McFerran in a seaside apartment in Castlerock last month.

The finance minister, who has responsibility for the regulations, said that legislative changes are being considered, but stressed that the issue was much more complex.

Responding to an Assembly debate on the poisoning tabled by DUP colleagues, Mr Wilson pointed out that only new buildings would be covered by such a law, leaving 99% of houses unregulated.

He also noted that while there was a requirement for detectors in England and Wales, that only applied to solid fuel appliances - so would not have covered the faulty gas heater that was the suspected killer in the Castlerock flat.

Mr Wilson said much more than law changes was required to alert people to the dangers of carbon monoxide.

"The worst situation would be to simply wash our hands of this situation by saying we did our bit by introducing legislative change and leaving people vulnerable or leaving them with a false sense of security or indeed leaving a lot of the properties where there might be problems untouched by the work that was done," he told the assembly.

Eighteen-year-olds Aaron and Neil from Newtownabbey were holidaying ahead of the publication of their exam results when they were overcome by the fumes. Their friend Matthew Gaw survived. The gas fitter who installed the faulty appliance that is the suspected source of the leak is currently under investigation.

Mr Wilson said his ministerial colleague Arlene Foster would be launching a major public awareness campaign about carbon monoxide through the Health and Safety Executive in November.

He added: "I don't think we should simply present as some sort of panacea in all of this (that) a change in building regulation and people will be safe. Even the industry is accepting that the most important thing is for people to be aware and do regular checks on appliances in their own homes."

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