Criminal probe launched into gas deaths of teens
A criminal investigation has been launched into the suspected carbon monoxide poisoning of two teenagers in Castlerock, the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) has said.
As it emerged that the tradesman at the centre of the investigation had carried out work at over 100 premises in the area, deputy chief executive of the HSENI, Dermot Breen, said it was doing all it could to safeguard public safety.
George Brown of the Calor Shop in Coleraine carried out work at the apartment where 18-year-olds Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson died last week from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
The HSENI has advised anyone who has had a gas appliance fitted by Mr Brown to switch if off. On Wednesday, two businesses were temporarily closed for safety investigations.
Mr Brown’s solicitor Garrett Greene said his client has not received any direct contact from the HSENI in regards to the number of places under investigation.
"Mr Brown estimated that he would have been effectively responsible for 108 business |premises in the area out of approximately 115," he said.
"He has been in the area for the last 20 years and is highly |respected. His customers are |people he lives among in his |community."
Mr Green said that his client is anxious that the proper investigations are carried out to ensure the safety of all of his customers.
"He is anxious the matter is investigated as diligently and expeditiously as possible and to that end there is some finality, at the earliest possible opportunity, to allow him to continue with his livelihood," he said.
The HSENI said it is doing all within its statutory powers to safeguard public safety, while also conducting "a robust and thorough criminal investigation" in conjunction with the PSNI.
"We must not lose sight of the fact that this investigation arises out of the tragic deaths of two young men in Castlerock last week and the hospitalisation of a third. We owe it to them and their families to ensure that we do not say or do anything at this stage that may prejudice this ongoing investigation," Mr Breen said.
"We have deployed the necessary teams with technical knowledge to either assist with the investigation or identify gas safety issues that require correction."
Mr Breen said that the helpline that was established to assist people concerned that they may have had work on gas appliances carried out by Mr Brown has received over 500 calls.
"We appreciate the concern that the public safety alert may have caused to homeowners, businesses and others. However, HSENI is firmly of the view that public safety must take priority in these instances so that no further lives are put at risk," he said.
The PSNI is working alongside the HSENI in relation to the deaths.
A police spokesman said that while the HSENI has described it as a criminal investigation, police involvement at this stage is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed.