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Explosion at Bosley Wood Mill leaves three dead and one missing

Three people have been killed and a fourth remains missing after an explosion left a Cheshire wood mill burning for several days. The incident occurred on the morning of Friday 17th July, with Cheshire Fire & Rescue services receiving a report of a large fire at the Bosley Wood Mill at 9:12 AM. In total 15 fire engines as well as rapid response vehicles and the air ambulance were sent to the scene to fight the fire and attempt a rescue.

It is believed that two separate explosions started the fire, which reached temperatures of up to 1000C.The inferno caused a four-story building to collapse and damaged several adjacent structures. It was visible to locals in the surrounding area as flames stretched up to 70 feet into the sky.

Altogether 35 people were affected, including four treated at the scene for breathing difficulties, four treated at hospital including one serious case, and the four missing persons. A 29-year-old woman was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after she suffered serious burns and blast injuries to her head, face, arms, and chest. Two people were taken to a specialist trauma unit at Royal Stoke University Hospital, and a fourth male casualty was taken to Whiston Hospital, Merseyside.

Three bodies have been recovered and have been identified as those of Dorothy Bailey, 62, of Bosley, Derek Moore, 62, of Stoke on Trent, and 51-year-old William Barks, from Leek. The fourth missing person has been confirmed as Jason Shingler, 38. A multi-agency team drawn from across the emergency services has continued to operate a search and recovery mission in the days following the explosion.

Three officers from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are working in conjunction with Cheshire Police as part of the major investigation team to uncover the cause of the blast. It has emerged that Wood Treatment Limited, the company that owns Bosley Wood Mill, had been previously served with two improvement notices by the HSE – though both were complied with. One was in relation to fire safety:

” … you have failed to ensure that the risk from fire or explosion involving LPG stored in your two bulk tanks at the side of the Station Shed North at your premises at Tunstall Road is either eliminated or reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable, in that the tanks are not protected by suitable barriers to minimise the risk of damage from vehicle impact; the concrete path has not been fitted with suitable barriers to prevent falls; and combustible materials are stored within the separation distance”

This is the third fire in five years at Bosley Wood Mill, with incidents also occurring in 2010 and 2012, although there were no casualties after these instances. Just three weeks ago, Cheshire East Council enforcement officers had investigated the site in response to complaints about dust and declared it safe. However, Kelvin Barks, brother of the deceased William, spoke to ITV news and said that his brother had raised concerns about safety at the factory and even described it as ‘a disaster waiting to happen’.

Woodland Treatment has not been available for comment in recent days but issued a statement on the day of the incident:

“We are shocked and saddened by the incident at our mill in Bosley and our thoughts and sympathies are with everyone affected and their families. The mill has been part of the community in Bosley since 1927 and we take the safety of our employees extremely seriously.”We are committed to establishing the cause of this incident and we will continue to co-operate fully with the emergency services and Health and Safety Executive. However, we feel it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time while investigations are ongoing.”
– Daily Gazette online

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