Saturday 21 January 2017

Delay in rescue of men trapped under rubble of Didcot power station 'diabolical'

Georgina Stubbs

Published 07/03/2016 | 13:46

The scene at Didcot Power Station, Oxfordshire, after one person died and a major search operation was under way for three others after a building collapsed at the power station. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The scene at Didcot Power Station, Oxfordshire, after one person died and a major search operation was under way for three others after a building collapsed at the power station. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
The scene at Didcot Power Station, Oxfordshire, after one person died and a major search operation was under way for three others after a building collapsed at the power station. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

A family member of one of the three men trapped under the rubble of the collapsed Didcot power station has called the delay in their rescue "diabolical".

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Mike Collings, 53, was killed and three other demolition workers were buried and left unaccounted for when the structure folded nearly two weeks ago.

Emergency services have since said it is "highly unlikely" the missing are still alive and last week stated that the recovery operation could take months.

Two of the trapped men have been named by their families as Chris Huxtable and Ken Cresswell.

Part of a collapsed building is illuminated by the emergency services as they work at the decommissioned Didcot A power station in central England
Part of a collapsed building is illuminated by the emergency services as they work at the decommissioned Didcot A power station in central England
Deputy chief fire officer Nathan Travis gives a press briefing at Didcot
Emergency services worked long into the night at Didcot on the rescue operation

A petition has now been launched by the partner of Mr Huxtable in a bid to "get them out now" - garnering more than 1,200 signatures so far.

Jade Ali, from Swansea, who created the online petition, posted: "We need them home. Minutes are turning into hours, and days are turning into weeks.

"Get these three hard working men out and back home."

John Howley, the uncle of Mr Cresswell, signed the petition on Sunday and called the delay in getting to the missing men "diabolical".

He said: "It is just the uncertainty - you are hoping that they are still alive in there but you have got to be realistic and think that it has been going on too long now.

"It just seems they are dragging their heels - if demolishing the rest of the building is the only way they are going to get at them then they need to get on with it."

Describing his nephew, Mr Howley told the Press Association: "He was a good lad - a real grafter. He worked all over the country on demolition for quite a few years.

"It is just a case of waiting and seeing."

Thames Valley Police said there was a further meeting with the families of the three men on Monday as part of their "ongoing support".

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: "We fully understand the anguish the families of the three missing workers will be experiencing. The priority of the multi-agency response remains the recovery of the bodies to their families.

"Given the risks, scale and complexity of the incident and that the building collapsed without warning, emergency services have had to strike a very difficult balance between helping those trapped and injured, recovering the bodies and the need to avoid further harm on the site."

The spokesman said they will continue to support the recovery operation with advice from independent experts who have looked at the way demolition contractors were carrying out the work.

He added: "Discussions with the site owners and the demolition contractors on proposals for ensuring risks at the site are effectively managed and controlled are ongoing."

Meanwhile, a supervisor who was seconds from being buried by the collapsed power station has said "it is a miracle" there were not more men trapped.

Mathew Mowat has more than 26 years' experience of working on demolition sites and had been with Coleman & Company for seven months when the defunct building crumbled in February.

The 49-year-old told the Press Association that they had been following the engineers' demolition instructions and said it is "ridiculous" that three trapped colleagues have not been retrieved.

He said: "I was just underneath boiler two and one of the other supervisors called me over. I went to talk to him, then there was this crash - I looked over my shoulder and saw the boiler coming down.

"We ran in self-preservation - then there was a loud bang and a massive cloud of dust, we couldn't see much for a few minutes.

"After, there were men walking out (of) the dust and they were black - some were very, very close to it.

"I was going up and down shouting 'no, no, no - there are guys under there'."

He said they had been "working to instruction and drawings" from the engineers during the demolition process.

"Coleman & Company are very, very stringent on safety - that's why I like working for them, they are a good company and there are a lot of experienced guys working for them," he said.

"I feel guilty in not being under there with the guys and for coming home because they are still there left under that steel - it is ridiculous they are not out.

"It is horrible, they were good guys. When you go out to work you don't do it to not come home at the end of the day."

Mr Mowat said it is a miracle more people were not trapped, owing to the amount of work that had been taking place inside the structure.

"There are quite a few people feeling blessed, including myself - and then feeling guilty and frustrated on not being able to get our friends out and sent home," he added.

"We all need closure on it, the guys and the families. We need to move forward and get them out - I would do it by hand if I could."

Mr Mowat said that he missed being trapped by "seconds" and that if it was not for one of the other supervisors calling him over, he would be "one of them under there too".

"There is all sorts going through your head. Every time I close my eyes I see those guys and just feel guilty that they are not home," he said.

"It is horrible and not nice for their families at all. They must be pulling their hair out over it. We need to get the ball rolling and get them out and home."

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