Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Bosses charged over firemen deaths

The fire burning at a warehouse on an industrial estate in Atherstone on Stour, Warwickshire
John Averis, a firefighter who died following the blaze in a warehouse on an industrial estate in Atherstone on Stour
Firefighter Ian Reid also died in the warehouse blaze

Three fire service managers are to be charged with manslaughter over the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse blaze.

Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence over the deaths of Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley in the blaze in a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

All three are managers for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Warwickshire County Council faces a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety at work of its employees, under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The defendants will appear at Leamington Spa Magistrates' Court on April 1.

Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the CPS Special Crime Division, said: "Following a thorough investigation by Warwickshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive, I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully and I have decided that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward with gross negligence manslaughter.

"Mr Simmons and Mr Ashley were Watch Managers and Mr Woodward was a Station Manager at the time of the fire, but they all acted as incident commanders before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building.

"In that role, they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire.

"I have also decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees and that it is in the public interest to prosecute."

A spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: "We welcome today's announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service. The judicial process has now begun and we must await the outcome. Our thoughts are with the families of the four firefighters who died."

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