Belfast Telegraph

Family calls for gas alarm laws

By Victoria O'Hara

A year after the deaths of two best friends from the 'silent killer', carbon monoxide poisoning, the family of one of the victims said changes to the law need to be fast-tracked in order to save more lives.

Neil McFerran (18) and Aaron Davidson (18), both from Newtownabbey, died after a gas leak in a holiday apartment in Castlerock, Co Londonderry, last August.

A third friend, Matthew Gaw, who was also in the north coast seaside apartment, survived.

In March Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced his intention to make carbon monoxide alarms mandatory in new buildings.

The proposal, part of a wider consultation on amendments to building regulations, is to introduce carbon monoxide alarms to all new dwellings with a boiler or solid fuel stove. The consultation, however, does not end until October.

And a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Personnel confirmed that, subject to the outcome of the consultation and ministerial approval, "the Department proposes to make amending regulations early in 2012".

But the proposal, if given approval, will not affect homes where there are existing appliances.

Today, on the anniversary of the tragedy, Neil's mother Catherine McFerran said proposals to change the legislation - currently under consultation - need to be tougher.

"We don't want to be negative," Mrs McFerran said. "We appreciate this issue being examined but we feel it would have been beneficial to fast-track this. I think they will be making it law that new builds have to have the alarms in them, but I think that only covers 5% of the public. It is a positive step in the right direction, but more needs to be done."

Mrs McFerran added she would like to see as much emphasis placed on promoting CO detectors as smoke alarms in properties across the province.

"We don't want anyone else sitting in the position that we are in and having to deal with what we are dealing with," she said.

"Those alarms are saving lives. If you don't have an alarm you don't have a warning."

Speaking in March, Mr Wilson said: "Following the tragic deaths of two young men in Castlerock last August I gave an undertaking that I would review building regulations requirements.

"Having done so, I have concluded that it would be beneficial to ensure the provision of carbon monoxide alarms."

Two men were arrested and questioned over the deaths in April this year.

A police spokeswoman said a report has been forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service.

It is understood Coleraine gas fitter George Brown was one of the men who was interviewed by police.

Following the deaths the Health and Safety Authority launched an investigation into a carbon monoxide leak from a faulty appliance in the flat.

It received more than 600 calls after urging anyone who had work carried out by Mr Brown, trading as George Brown Calor Gas in Coleraine, to switch off gas appliances immediately.

The Calor shop run by Mr Brown is an entirely separate legal entity to Calor Gas (NI) Limited.

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