The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that 3 Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service managers are to face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence, for the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour, in 2007. Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Bradley all died in the fire at Wealmoor Ltd, November 2, 2007.

Warwickshire County Council will also be charged with failing to make sure health and safety of its employees are maintained.

Michael Gregory, CPS special crime division, told FIRE: "Following a thorough investigation by Warwickshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive, I have reviewed the evidence in this case very carefully and 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.

"I have also decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of its employees and that it is in the public interest to prosecute."

The fire is not thought to have been deliberately started, the Crown Prosecution Service told FIRE. The defendants are due to appear before Leamington Spa magistrates' court on April 1.

The defendants will appear at Leamington Spa magistrates' court on 1 April.

The Chief Fire Officers Association is said to be disappointed by the decision to prosecute the three firefighters. Peter Holland, CFOA President, said: "This is now a matter for the courts to determine and as such it is inappropriate to comment on the particular case. However, CFOA will be looking very carefully at the evidence that will be provided in court and will consider the wider implications this may have for the profession once the outcome is known. The public and business owners rightly need to be secure in the knowledge that their Fire and Rescue Services can provide an appropriate response to their needs."

The CFOA President added: "Firefighter safety is clearly of paramount importance to us and we are of course keen to learn lessons from the incident. Unfortunately, the protracted nature of this investigation has meant that we are still awaiting outcomes over 3 years later." 

Posted 01.03.11