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DIDCOT FATAL COLLAPSE: INVESTIGATION UPDATE

Police and HSE still seeking to understand why boiler house collapsed

On 23rd February 2016 the collapse of a structure during demolition of the former power station in Didcot, Oxfordshire led to the death of four workers on the site. A joint investigation with HSE is currently being led by Thames Valley Police (TVP).

TVP has now updated the Oxfordshire Coroner at a pre-inquest review at Oxford Coroner’s Court on 31st January 2018. The force continues to work with HSE to investigate the circumstances surrounding the collapse which led to the deaths of Michael Collings, Ken Cresswell, Christopher Huxtable and John Shaw and injuries to a number of other men.

Potential criminal offences under investigation

Following the pre-inquest review Senior TVP Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Craig Kirby said:

“We continue to carry out a thorough investigation in order to obtain answers for the affected families and friends who lost their loved ones, and those who were injured following the partial collapse at Didcot. This is an extremely wide scale and hugely complex investigation.

To date over 1900 witness statements have been taken by the investigative team, and a number of interviews have been conducted under caution in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984). These interviews have taken a significant length of time, and further interviews will need to be undertaken.

The joint TVP and HSE investigative team continue to meet regularly with a specialist dedicated prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ensure that all lines of enquiry are being appropriately and robustly explored. At this time it is not possible for us to put a timeframe on the completion of the investigation however an initial file was submitted to the CPS at the end of December for investigative advice.

On-site recovery of evidence continues to be a key line of enquiry, to understand why the boiler house collapsed.

Clearance of boilers one and two has been completed, and independent contractors continue to clear boilers three and four. This work is expected to be completed by spring 2018. The site remains a crime scene with a 24/7 police scene guard. A TVP and HSE evidence recovery team continue to work on site.”

TVP stress that the force and HSE are committed to carrying out a thorough investigation to ascertain if any criminal or health and safety related offences have taken place and to “obtain justice for the families and all those affected.”

Industry-wide practices need to be challenged

The update provided by TVP to HM Coroner has been followed by a statement from James Howard, Director, Coleman & Company as follows:

“We have heard today from Thames Valley Police, at a briefing to the Oxfordshire Senior Coroner, the current status of their investigation into the deaths of our 4 colleagues at Didcot Power Station in February 2016.

Before I comment on the statement read out by the Police I want to take a moment to say again to the families of our deceased colleagues how deeply sorry we are for their loss and the hurt they continue to experience.

The loss of Chris, John, Kenny and Mick has been felt deeply by everyone at Coleman and Company and this tragic accident has had a profound effect on the health and well-being of many of us over the past 2 years.

From the outset, the team here at Coleman’s have actively and openly co-operated with both the Police and Health & Safety Executive.

That collaboration continues – after all, we share a common desire to understand the cause of the collapse, provide justice for the families, and learn lessons for the industry.

As part of the investigation process we have received a formal disclosure from the Police that seeks to support their position that all possible breaches of health and safety legislation, including Corporate Manslaughter, remain under investigation.

Our investigation team and legal advisors share a view that the disclosure provided by the police so far gives no grounds to suggest that we or any of our employees have acted in a way which would associate us with a manslaughter investigation.

What is more, it is clear that Thames Valley Police and the HSE have not yet crystalized a view on the cause of the collapse. Given the size, complexity and nature of the investigation this is, perhaps, understandable but we share in the frustration and disappointment that this has created, and continues to create, for all those affected.

At the time of the accident we pledged to share the learning from this tragedy as soon as possible, in the interests of both the families and the wider demolition community. With that in mind, we commissioned our own investigations which, in our view, clearly show why and how units 1 and 2 of the boiler house collapsed. We believe the findings highlight industry-wide practices that need to be challenged and reviewed.

We now consider it essential to share this learning as a matter of urgency, so that immediate steps can be taken within the industry to prevent future loss of life and so that the families can begin to understand what caused this dreadful accident.

We will therefore shortly be writing to the TVP and HSE investigation team, together with the Oxfordshire Senior Coroner, setting out our position and providing access to the preliminary findings from our investigations.

Thereafter, we are keen to engage with the families and the wider demolition industry at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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