A KITCHEN fitter allegedly claimed he had been doing his job so long he could no longer smell gas – seconds before a massive explosion tore apart a hotel.
The blast left Aberdeenshire barmaid Danielle Ormond with serious injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
The 30-year-old, who had to be dug out of the rubble of the Drumtochty Arms Hotel, Auchenblae, is suing her former employers and a maintenance firm for a total of £200,000.
According to papers lodged at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Ms Ormond suffered crush injuries and broken bones in the January 2009 explosion.
She still suffers pain and needs counselling, according to her lawyers.
Both the hotel’s owners and the maintenance firm deny they caused the explosion.
The accident happened after Ms Ormond went into the basement to change a beer barrel.
Instant Catering Maintenance Ltd were installing a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank at the back of the hotel.
One of their employees, Neil Coffield, was working in the kitchen area on equipment to run off LPG.
Lawyers for the hotel’s owners, Drumtochty Castle Ltd, state in the court papers: “About fifty seconds before the explosion [Mr Coffield] said to [Ms Ormond] about smelling gas that he had ‘been doing this job so long that I can’t smell it anymore.'”
The hotel’s lawyers allege: “He caused a significant leak of gas which mixed with air and exploded, probably as a result of ignition by an electrical spark.”
They add: “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.”
Ms Ormond’s lawyers say in the papers she suffered a “crush injury” to her chest along with numerous broken bones and suffers ongoing pain as well as flashbacks.
“She developed post-traumatic stress disorder and has undergone counselling,” they add.
They say “believed to be true that there were no suitable arrangements made for the ventilation of the kitchen.”
“[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.
“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.”
Lawyers for Instant Catering admit Mr Coffield asked Ms Ormond if she could smell gas, and that she said she could.
But they claim the hotel “did not make suitable arrangements for the ventilation of the kitchen”.
The result, they claim, was that “any gas leaking into the kitchen would accumulate at a low level and be at risk of ignition”.
Ms Ormond, giving an interview in 2009, said: “I still feel lucky to be alive. The nightmares don’t help. Sometimes you wake up and you have to, like, realise that you are still alive.
“And 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.”
She continued: “The back pain is constant. My facial injuries have healed quite well, but I do have lot of scarring and I do get a lot of pain from it.”
Mr Coffield and another man were also hurt in the blast.
The Crown Office said an investigation into the explosion was still ongoing.