Corporate manslaughter charges could still be brought against companies deemed responsible for the deadly collapse at Didcot Power Station in February 2016.
Thames Valley Police yesterday (Wednesday) said that it was continuing its investigation into the circumstances of the collapse which killed four employees of demolition firm Coleman & Company.
Updating the Oxfordshire Coroner at a pre-inquest hearing, detective chief inspector Craig Kirby said the police was working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on its “extremely wide scale and hugely complex investigation”.
More than 1,900 witness statements have been taken with “a number of interviews conducted under caution”, added DCI Kirby.
Coleman & Company director James Howard said that the company had “actively and openly co-operated” with the police and HSE, but maintained that neither the firm nor its employees had “acted in a way which would associate us with a manslaughter charge”.
The company has completed its own investigation into the incident, in which part of the power station’s boiler house collapsed, killing workers Michael Collings, Ken Cresswell, Chris Huxtable and John Shaw. Howard said Coleman & Company would share its preliminary findings with the police, the HSE and the coroner.
In his statement, he said: “I want to take a moment to say again to the families of our deceased colleagues how deeply sorry we are for their loss and the hurt they continue to experience.
“The loss of Chris, John, Kenny and Mick has been felt deeply by everyone at Coleman and Company and this tragic accident has had a profound effect on the health and well-being of many of us over the past 2 years.
“From the outset, the team here at Coleman’s have actively and openly co-operated with both the Police and Health & Safety Executive.
“That collaboration continues – after all, we share a common desire to understand the cause of the collapse, provide justice for the families, and learn lessons for the industry.
“As part of the investigation process we have received a formal disclosure from the Police that seeks to support their position that all possible breaches of health and safety legislation, including Corporate Manslaughter, remain under investigation.
“Our investigation team and legal advisers share a view that the disclosure provided by the police so far gives no grounds to suggest that we or any of our employees have acted in a way which would associate us with a manslaughter investigation.
“What is more, it is clear that Thames Valley Police and the HSE have not yet crystallised a view on the cause of the collapse. Given the size, complexity and nature of the investigation this is, perhaps, understandable but we share in the frustration and disappointment that this has created, and continues to create, for all those affected
“At the time of the accident we pledged to share the learning from this tragedy as soon as possible, in the interests of both the families and the wider demolition community.
“With that in mind, we commissioned our own investigations which, in our view, clearly show why and how units 1 and 2 of the boiler house collapsed. We believe the findings highlight industry-wide practices that need to be challenged and reviewed.
“We now consider it essential to share this learning as a matter of urgency, so that immediate steps can be taken within the industry to prevent future loss of life and so that the families can begin to understand what caused this dreadful accident.
“We will therefore shortly be writing to the TVP and HSE investigation team, together with the Oxfordshire Senior Coroner, setting out our position and providing access to the preliminary findings from our investigations.
“Thereafter, we are keen to engage with the families and the wider demolition industry at the earliest possible opportunity.”