‘Insufficient evidence’ to prosecute manslaughter after explosion deaths
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‘Insufficient evidence’ to prosecute manslaughter after explosion deaths

Police said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute three men and a teenager who died in an explosion at a water recycling plant.

Luke Wheaton, 16, from Bradley Stoke, Ray White, 57, from Portishead, Brian Vickery, 63, from Clevedon, and Mike James, 64, from Bath, died in the accident in Wessex Water on December 3, 2020.

It is understood that Mr James was a contractor working on the site, Mr Vickery and Mr White were employees of Wessex Water and Luke was an apprentice with the company.

In this case, the evidence we have collected does not meet the extremely high threshold that would allow for prosecution for any crime of murder.

Avon and Somerset Police

In a statement on Wednesday, Avon and Somerset Police said its Major Investigation Team was leading an investigation into the cause of the explosion with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A police spokesman said the investigation was focused on establishing whether any specific individuals were responsible for the explosions and whether there were any health and safety breaches.

Detectives and HSE investigators recently met with the Attorney General to review the case, which concluded there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for murder in passion.”

The spokesman added that the HSE would now work to determine whether an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 may have been committed.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Almond, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Our thoughts have been with the families of Luke, Ray, Brian and Mike throughout this investigation.

“The families have shown great dignity and patience as we have conducted this investigation and I would like to publicly thank them for their support and understanding over the past three and a half years.

“Investigations of this nature are incredibly complex and require support from other agencies to gather the evidence and then experts to help us interpret what that evidence tells us.

“In this case, the evidence we collected does not meet the requirements to initiate criminal proceedings for murder.

The four colleagues will always be in the thoughts of all associated with Wessex Water

Wessex Water

“We have met with all the families to explain the situation to them and to let them know what will happen next once the HSE takes responsibility for the investigation.”

Emergency services were called to reports of a large chemical tank explosion at approximately 11:20 a.m. on December 3, 2020.

The explosion occurred in a silo where cleaned biological waste was stored.

In tributes released by police following the tragedy, Luke was described as “the most wonderful, loving, happy, talented and perfect son”.

Mr White’s family said he was a “wonderful son, brother and father to his two sons”, while Mr Vickery’s family paid tribute to his “cheeky and wicked sense of humour”.

Mr James’ family described him as a “brother, husband, father and grandfather”, adding that he would be missed.

Simon Chilcott, chief inspector of the HSE, confirmed that investigators were in regular contact with the families of the deceased.

He said: “We have been involved in this complex investigation from the outset. We will now, as the lead agency, continue with a robust criminal investigation to determine whether any breaches of health and safety law occurred.”

A Wessex Water spokesman said: “We are continuing to work with the Health and Safety Executive who are leading the investigation and are keen to establish why this incident occurred.

“The four colleagues will always be in the thoughts of everyone associated with Wessex Water.”