Fireworks blaze search to resume


Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor

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Searches will resume today at a blaze-damaged fireworks warehouse after the discovery of two bodies on the site.

A specialist team of police and fire officers carried out a fingertip search of the SP Plastics industrial unit on the Baswich Industrial Estate in Stafford yesterday after a huge fire ripped through the building on Thursday evening.

A 53-year-old man who was arrested in connection with the incident was released and is now being treated as a witness.

The dead men, whose bodies were discovered almost 24 hours after the explosion, have not been named but police said their families had been informed and were being supported by specially trained officers.

One man who suffered serious burns in the fire remains in Birmingham Hospital in a critical condition while another injured man has been released from hospital.

Superintendent Ian Coxhead, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This is a tragic development in a rare and challenging incident, our sympathies go out to the families of those who have sadly lost their lives.

“Our primary concern has been locating those who were unaccounted for.

“Our searches of the building will continue over the weekend as we work to establish the cause of the fire but it will take some time due to the unstable structure of the building and dangerous environment we’re working in.”

The industrial unit off Tilcon Avenue, which is just a few hundred yards from 150 homes, had been used to store what police described as “a significant volume of fireworks”.

However, the council confirmed there have been “no safety issues” with SP Plastics, and it had been licensed to sell fireworks for four years.

Dramatic footage of the fire showed thick plumes of smoke and bursts of fireworks exploding in all directions from the building – a scene described as “horrendous” by bystanders.

Witness 66-year-old Neil Kendall described the noise as “deafening” and “constant” as the fireworks detonated in the heat.

He is the head of the residents’ association on a nearby mobile home site, where many elderly residents live.

“There was a guy who had parked his van nearby and he had just come out of there,” said Mr Kendall.

“He said some of his colleagues were inside, buying fireworks, and he was concerned.”

Mr Kendall added the location was well known locally as somewhere to buy fireworks and that in the seven years he had been there, there had never been any issues.

At the height of the blaze there were 50 firefighters at the scene, the fire service said.

Recalling the moment the first explosion rang out, w orkers yesterday described their desperate escape as fireworks detonated overhead and further blasts damaged other nearby units.

Stephanie Horton, an employee of a neighbouring firm, described how it had been quiet on the estate before she heard a “very loud explosion”, followed in succession by several more.

“The first thing that happened was that first very loud explosion and then three explosions – I was told there were about 10 in all,” she said.

She managed to escape her place of work after a colleague “all but lifted the door off its hinges” allowing them to get out.

Police said the estate will be cordoned off “for the foreseeable future” while its investigation and further searches continue.

Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor

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