Didcot Power Station collapse: Families of missing hold protest

Family members protesting at the site
Image caption The families of three missing workers from Swansea and Rotherham took part in the protest at the Didcot A site

The families of three missing workers feared trapped following a collapse at Didcot Power Station have held a "peaceful protest" at the site.

Two of the three families have previously criticised the rescue operation saying it has been too slow.

One person died and five were injured after half of the decommissioned Didcot A plant collapsed on 23 February.

Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said recovering the missing men remained the "priority".

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Media captionJade Ali, from Swansea, criticises the search for her missing partner Christopher Huxtable

Christopher Huxtable, 34, from Swansea, Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, are still missing in the rubble.

Jade Ali has previously said she had been "left in the dark" about the search for her partner Mr Huxtable.

The 28-year-old set up an online petition to "get the three men out" which has so far been signed by more than 15,000 people.

From the scene: BBC News reporter Briony Leyland

Unfurling placards and fighting back tears, friends and family of the three missing men arrived in Didcot after long coach journeys from Rotherham and Wales.

Today is both a protest and a pilgrimage.

For some it's the first time they've seen, for real, the vast structure of Didcot A and the huge pile of rubble which came down almost three weeks ago.

Gazing at the wreckage, one woman told me it is utterly different to seeing the scene on television, another said to her daughter: "I told you it wouldn't be easy".

The grandchildren of Ken Cresswell wore t-shirts saying "bring our granddad home".

Hugs were shared between strangers from Yorkshire and Wales - people brought together in a common cause, all believing more could, and should, be done to find their loved ones.

Image caption Some of the flags and banners contain the words "never give up on anybody, miracles happen everyday"
Image copyright Jade Ali
Image caption Jade Ali said she had been "left in the dark" about the search for her partner Christopher Huxtable

John Howley, Mr Cresswell's uncle, also said there had been a "diabolical" delay in getting to the missing men.

During the protest, Mr Cresswell's wife Gail described the three missing men as "much loved".

"We've got to have them home, we need them home - they need out of this," she said.

"They're hardworking men who have worked down here all this time and this is the thanks they get, left under rubble all this time."

Mr Huxtable's 14-year-old niece Mollie Williams said: "It's heartbreaking to know your uncle is under there trying to fight for his life and nothing is happening."

Image caption Police and the Health and Safety Executive said recovering the missing men remained the "priority"

In a joint statement, Thames Valley Police and the HSE said they were waiting for site owners RWE to "produce a plan for a safe method of working before the next stage of the recovery can begin".

"Once this is received and approved by HSE, emergency services are on hand to recover the missing men," it said.

"Preparation at the site, for the recovery, is taking place and will continue over the weekend."

Image caption Some family members are wearing specially made t-shirts printed with the words "bring our dad home", "help the Didcot 3" and "bring Ken home"

RWE said it was providing an independent assessment "on the stability of the remaining structure".

The firm added it "recognises the impact this state of uncertainty must be having on the families concerned and that it is of paramount importance to respond to this tragic situation", and said it had offered to meet up with the affected families "next week when we have more information".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Three men remain trapped under the power station which collapsed on 23 February

Police have previously said it was "highly unlikely" the missing men were still alive and that recovering bodies would take "many, many weeks".

Dave Etheridge, the chief fire officer working at the site, has also defended the handling of the rescue attempt.

He said the service was dealing with a "weakened" structure and needed to minimise the risk to rescuers.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption The body of Michael Collings was found following the collapse

Police and the HSE said they were "working hard to identity as soon as possible what caused the building to partially collapse, to provide answers and prevent such a tragedy happening again".

Specialist police officers "continue to support the families at this difficult time and we are providing them with regular updates on the progress", they added.

Part of the 10-storey building came down as it was being prepared for demolition on 23 February at 16:00 GMT.

The body of Michael Collings, 53, from Brotton, Teesside, was found following the collapse.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption The ambulance service treated more than 50 casualties following the collapse at Didcot A

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