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Investigation into fireman's death 'should be reviewed'

Published 08/02/2013

THE family of a Co Derry firefighter who died after falling through the roof of a burning building has called on health minister Edwin Poots to order an independent review of the original investigation into his death.

Joe McCloskey (50) died after suffering severe burns when the roof of a Limavady hotel collapsed under him.

The father-of-five from Dungiven, Co Derry, and a colleague were ordered onto the roof of the Gorteen House Hotel after fire ripped through the building on Halloween night, 2003.

An investigation was carried out at the time but the McCloskey family say they have still been left with unanswered questions including who gave the order to send the firemen up.

Mr McCloskey was the last fire-fighter to die from injuries sustained while on duty in the north.

His widow Marie last night accused the chairman of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Board Dr Joe McKee of snubbing her family after he recently cancelled a meeting with them.

"He has snubbed us," she said.

"They talk about how much they thought of Joe but if they have any respect for Joe we should not have to ask these questions, they should be coming to us."

"We have lived this nightmare for nine years."

Mrs McCloskey urged both the health minister and Fire Service to carry out an independent probe.

"We want them to go and investigate it and tell us who gave the order. We want an independent review of the original investigation," she said.

"As a family we don't have the power to say it was Mr A or B who gave the order. Mr Poots has the power and he won't help us."

Tristan Ashby from the Retained Firefighters Union, last night backed the family's call for a review of the original investigation.

"The family want closure, not necessarily who they can blame," he said.

"But someone has to take responsibility," he said.

Fire Service chairman Dr Joe McKee declined to comment on why the meeting with the McCloskey family was cancelled but added that he has written to them.

A spokesman for the Department for Health said the minister has "given very careful consideration to the three separate investigations already undertaken into the circumstances surrounding Mr McCloskey's death".

"In addition, with the passage of time and the differing versions of events given at the inquest and to the investigators by Joe's colleagues who were present that night, it is difficult to envisage that a fresh investi gation or review would conclusively determine what happened that night," she said.

"The minister therefore has no plans to commission an independent review of the original fire service investigation."