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Council admits fire death charge

A council has admitted breaching health and safety law in connection with a ferocious warehouse blaze which killed four firefighters.

Warwickshire County Council pleaded guilty at Wolverhampton Crown Court to failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees, contrary to Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Ian Reid, 44, John Averis, 27, Darren Yates-Badley, 24, and Ashley Stephens, 20, died tackling the fire at a vegetable packing plant in Atherstone-on-Stour in November 2007.

Chris Green, lawyer for the council, said after the hearing: "Warwickshire County Council has today entered a guilty plea to the charges it faces in connection with the Atherstone fire.

"That plea is entered on a limited basis and we should like to make it clear that we do not accept many of the allegations made by the prosecution.

"We believe it is very important that we say nothing that in any way prejudices the legal proceedings about these tragic events so we will not be saying anything further except that our thoughts today are with the families and friends of all those affected by the Atherstone fire just over four years ago."

Three fire service managers, charged with manslaughter by gross negligence in connection with the fire, also appeared at the court.

Paul Simmons, 50, Adrian Ashley, 45, and Timothy Woodward, 51, spoke only to confirm their names at the directions hearing.

They were bailed to re-appear in court on a date to be fixed.

The courtroom's public gallery was packed, and extra seating was made available for family and friends of the dead firefighters to witness the proceedings.

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