Both sides deny gas explosion blame

Both the Drumtochty Arms Hotel and Instant Catering Maintenance Ltd deny they caused a gas explosion at an Auchenblae hotel. The court was told that a kitchen fitter allegedly claimed he had been doing his job so long he could no longer smell gas, only seconds before the explosion.

Barmaid Danielle Ormond was left with serious injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder when a gas explosion tore apart Auchenblae’s Drumtochty Arms Hotel in January 2009.

The 30-year-old is suing her former employer and the maintenance firm for £200,000 after she suffered a crush injury to her chest and numerous broken bones and is now said to be suffering flashbacks, and ongoing pain. The accident happened when barmaid Ms Ormond went into the basement to change a beer barrel.

At the time, Instant Catering Maintenance Ltd was installing a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank at the back of the building and one of the firm’s employees, Neil Coffield, who was also hurt in the blast, was working in the kitchen on equipment to run off LPG.

Lawyers for Instant Catering admit Mr Coffield asked Ms Ormond if she could smell gas to which she said she could however lawyers for the hotel’s owner, Drumtochty Castle Ltd, state in the court papers that about 50 seconds before the explosion Mr Coffield said that he had been “doing the job so long that I can’t smell it anymore” when referring to the smell of gas.

The hotel’s lawyers state: “He caused a significant leak of gas which mixed with air and exploded, probably as a result of ignition by an electrical spark.

“Shortly after the explosion Mr Coffield stated that his manager would ‘go mental’ and when asked why this would be so, explained it was because ‘I lit the cooker’.

“He then twice apologised for what he had done. The hotel consequently had to be demolished.”

Lawyers for Instant Catering Maintenance Ltd claim that the hotel did not make suitable arrangements for the ventilation of the kitchen and claim that this means any gas leaking into the kitchen would accumulate at a low level and be at risk of ignition.

Ms Ormond’s lawyers said Mr Coffield worked on at least two ovens and a griddle, had difficulty in resolving an ignition problem with a cooker, and purged pipes of gas.

They said: “He repeatedly turned on the gas supply to at least one appliance.

“He turned on the ignite controls to the chargrill, griddle and fryer to ‘on’ in which position they remained when the explosion occurred.”

In 2009 after the blast Ms Ormond said: “I still feel lucky to be alive. The nightmares don’t help. Sometimes you wake up and you have to, realise that you are still alive.

“Sometimes you will wake up in the morning and there is that moment where you feel like you are ok, and then your back hurts and you will remember what happened to you. And it’s a constant thing, every single morning.

“Apart from all the pain and discomfort, I feel I am losing a whole chunk of life because I can’t do a single thing.” The Crown Office said an investigation is continuing.