Didcot collapse: MP slams the wait for answers

An MP has suggested that issues around the Didcot Power Station collapse have been “kicked into the long grass” as the investigation into the incident drags on.

On 23 February 2016, the boiler house at the decommissioned Oxfordshire facility collapsed, with Michael Collings, 53, found dead shortly afterwards.

The bodies of Chris Huxtable, 34, Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, were recovered from the rubble more than six months later – across two weeks in late August and early September 2016.

The workers had been preparing for the huge structure to be demolished when it partially collapsed. Five others were injured.

Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been investigating the incident since, but no explanation of what happened has yet been provided for families, the industry or the public. No one has been charged with any crime.

As the seventh anniversaries of the recovery of the bodies from the rubble passes, Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham in South Yorkshire, where both Cresswell and Shaw were from, told Construction News she will push the government for answers.

“It appals me that the families are still waiting to hear if there will be prosecutions over the deaths of their loved ones. How long are they expected to be in limbo before getting answers? There is also the very real concern that the same mistakes could befall others if the truth isn’t brought into the public domain,” she said.

Champion added that she “appreciate[s] the complexity of the inquiry […] but it rather feels like this is being kicked into the long grass”.

Sadie Cresswell, one of Ken Cresswell’s daughters, said her family marks the 8 September as his “freedom day”.

“He was free from the dark of Didcot after months and months. We all miss him very much, he is loved beyond measure and has left a big hole in our family unit, an irreparable one. If the only thing we can do for him is get justice then we will spend our lives making sure he gets that, as he deserves it so very much. They all do,” she told CN.

Chris Huxtable’s daughter Tia said she still doesn’t understand why the recovery took so many months. She told CN in February: “If it was someone famous under that rubble, they would have been straight in there. Give us a good explanation on why it took so long.”

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said the investigation into the incident is continuing.

Investigators are examining potential offences including corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter and Health & Safety Act breaches.

The spokesperson added: “The length of time this investigation is taking is a reflection of the complexity and scale of the case, with a dedicated joint investigation team still actively progressing numerous and complex lines of enquiry.

“Our thoughts remain with the victim’s loved ones.”

Asked about Champion’s comments on the potential dangers to others from the lack of information, an HSE spokesperson said: “Without commenting on what happened at Didcot, the most fundamental action any company that carries out demolition work can take is to use HSE’s long-standing, well-established guidance on safe demolition.

“HSE has worked proactively around demolition to inform and educate industry, independent of the ongoing Didcot investigation, but to date has not needed to specifically issue a safety alert in relation to the partial collapse at Didcot.”

Coleman & Company, which the men worked for on the Didcot job, has repeatedly said it does not believe it was responsible for the incident.

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