Belfast Telegraph

Water Service responsible for death of Castlederg man

By Sarah Brett

The widow of a Castlederg man killed in a massive explosion at a water treatment plant today said she was glad the Water Service had been held accountable - but could not forgive the service.

Jean Stevenson was speaking after the Water Service was blamed for causing the death of her husband Drew (51), who was killed in a blast while carrying out construction work at Carnmoney water treatment works in Eglinton in June last year.

The father-of-six from Killen in Castlederg was working on the roof above a tank emitting hydrogen gas when it exploded and shot through the roof 150ft into the air.

Two other men were injured in the blast, one seriously.

A Crown censure hearing was held yesterday following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

The censure concluded: "There were shortcomings in the risk-management procedures for Carnmoney water treatment works that led to the tragedy."

Censure hearings are held behind closed doors.

However, a statement from the Health and Safety Executive said the investigation had found that "Northern Ireland Water Service failed to take adequate steps to prevent the risk of an explosion occurring during the construction work that was taking place at the plant near to a source of hydrogen gas."

Crown censure is a procedure followed by the Health and Safety Executive when a case cannot be taken to a court of law because of the Crown immunity from prosecution enjoyed by bodies such as the Water Service.

Water Service chief executive, Katherine Bryan, said the service had completely reviewed its treatment processes since the accident.

Responding to the conclusions of yesterday's hearing, Mrs Stevenson said: " I don't really forgive the Water Service but I

didn't want to see any one person jailed or lose their job over it. They didn't set out to kill him, but they should have done a lot more to prevent it.

"I have some sort of closure but it feels hollow really. I have mixed emotions, part of me is still angry.

"Maybe after the inquest I'll be able to look forward. I want to know that he died instantly and that he didn't suffer."

Remembering the day of the tragedy, Jean said her son came to her work place and burst into tears. "He said 'Dad's had an accident'," she recalled.

"We started phoning the hospital every ten minutes and calling Drew on his mobile phone. When they eventually found his phone it had 86 missed calls on it.

"The boys were saying, 'Daddy's smarter than that, he wouldn't have been anywhere near it.'

"But privately, once I heard a man was dead and his body was still at the scene I could picture it, see him lying there.

"It was hardest day of my life and I keep reliving it. I also replay the night before constantly. Usually Drew would come in, have a wash and a smoke and go to bed. But I had his tea ready for him that night and we sat down and chatted and he was still up after 11pm.

"I know he went out to make sure things were locked up every night, but that night I watched him through the kitchen window as he went. Now every time I look out that window I see him clear as day.

"Every word he said to me I remember. In a way that keeps me going, that we had such a nice last night together.

"His wee grandson is only two-and-a-half but he remembers him. He keeps saying 'When is my wee Granddad Drew coming back?' - it takes the heart out of you.

"Christmas this year is going to be worse than the last. My sister and I became very close after Drew died and she wouldn't let me do anything, she had Christmas all organised.

"Then she was found dead in her bed on December 17. I wondered whether I would be grieving for her this year, but it's still Drew that fills my thoughts - I haven't had a chance to grieve for my sister yet.

"Family is great but I'm on my own at the end of the day and I miss him. I live one day at a time, some days I couldn't care less what happens to me and others, somebody will call in or whatever and that will get me through.

"Christmas will just be another day I have to get through. I don't look forward to anything. I don't plan anything.

"They say time heals, but at the minute I don't believe that."


From Belfast Telegraph