This month 10 years ago, the worst British hotel fire in 30 years ripped through the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay Leaving three guests dead
It took more than 100 firefighters to control the blaze that tore through the 54-bedroom Cornish Hotel just after midnight on the 18th August 2007.
Three people lost their lives as a result of the fire, Monica Hughes, 86, her son Peter Hughes, 43, and Joan Harper, 80. They were unable to escape the flames.
The building was nothing more than a blackened shell after the fire was put out and so was later demolished.
4 years later in May 2011, the owner of the hotel admitted to the breaches of health and safety regulations. It marked the end of a three and a half year wait by the victims’ relatives for someone to be held accountable and for justice to be served.
It was revealed in an inquest held in 2009 that the hotel was not complying with fire safety regulations introduced in 2005 which stipulated, among other things, that each room must have its own smoke alarm.
It was heard in court that the fire alarm sound could not be heard from the third floor and there was a suitcase left in the hallway restricting access on the escape route.
One guest described the ‘despair’ she felt when she could see Joan Harper crying for help from a bedroom window and the fire brigade arrived without a ladder long enough to reach her. “I could see no ladder on the fire engine. There was just an engine with a hose.”
Throughout the 18-day inquest both the manager and his partner, the assistant manager refused to answer any questions regarding safety regulations at the hotel.
The night porter on the night of the fire did the same. The manager and his partner also gave contradictory evidence to the inquest about events during the night of the fire at the hotel.
The porter was arrested by Devon and Cornwall Police in 2008 but released without charge.
Later, a civil prosecution was brought against the hotel’s owners and several members of staff by Cornwall Council and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service for breaches of health and safety laws.
In 2011, The Owners, O&C Holdsworth Ltd, admitted failing to ensure fire detectors and alarms were working at the hotel or making an adequate risk assessment before the blaze. It was fined £80,000 – a sum described as a ‘travesty’ by a relative of the victims.
The site on which the hotel once stood has since been redeveloped into Island Reach, a block of luxury modern townhouses.
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Original Source: The Herald