Coventry & Warwickshire

Charges over Warwickshire firefighters' deaths

Clockwise from top left: Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid, John Averis
Image caption Three of the men died in the building, while the fourth died in hospital

Three Warwickshire fire service managers are to face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence over the deaths of four firefighters.

Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward were incident commanders at the time of the warehouse blaze in Atherstone-on-Stour in November 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley all died.

The defendants are due to appear before magistrates on 1 April.

Warwickshire County Council also faces a charge of failing to ensure safety at work.

'Public interest'

The charge against the council was brought under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The bodies of Mr Stephens, 20, Mr Averis, 27, and Mr Yates-Badley, 24, were found in the charred remains of the warehouse. Mr Reid, 44, died later in hospital.

Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the Crown Prosecution Service (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.

"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."

'Sincere condolences'

He added he had also decided there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees.

He said it was in the "public interest" to prosecute.

"I send my sincere condolences to the families of these four men who died in such terrible circumstances," he said.

Nine other individuals, who were investigated by Warwickshire Police, have been told that there is insufficient evidence to take any action against them.

Warwickshire Police welcomed the announcement by the CPS.

A spokesman said: "This has been a long and complex investigation and the CPS has reviewed it with due diligence before making its decision.

"The judicial process has now begun and we must await the outcome."

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