Avonmouth explosion: Boy, 16, among four victims named by police

4 December 2020, 17:47 | Updated: 4 December 2020, 21:12

One of the victims named by police on Friday was 16 years old
One of the victims named by police on Friday was 16 years old. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Four men killed in a blast at a water recycling centre in Avonmouth have been named by police, with one victim just 16-years-old.

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed the victims were Michael James, 64, Brian Vickery, 63, Raymond White, 57, and Luke Wheaton, 16.

One person who survived Thursday's explosion is now recovering from their injuries at home and the police will speak with them when appropriate.

Emergency services were called at around 11:20am on Thursday to reports of a large blast involving one of the chemical tanks at the Wessex Water site, off Kings Weston Lane.

The explosion happened in a silo that held treated biosolids that would be recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner.

Police said a cordon at the site would be maintained "over the coming days" while an investigation is carried out.

This is being supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a team of chemical and mechanical experts, Avon and Somerset Police said.

Read more: Four dead and one injured after Avonmouth waste water plant blast

Superintendent Simon Brickwood said: "I'd like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those involved in yesterday's tragic incident.

"An investigation has been launched into the causes of the explosion, with the support of partner agencies and the Health and Safety Executive.

"This is likely to be ongoing for some time and we will be keeping the victims' families informed throughout.

"We appreciate the impact this incident has had on the local community and we thank those affected for their patience while our investigative work is carried out.

"The local neighbourhood policing team is available to address any concerns members of the public may have.

"I'd like to pay tribute to those involved in the emergency response, who have been at the scene throughout the night under very difficult and challenging circumstances."

North Bristol Rugby Football Club paid tribute to 16-year-old Luke Wheaton, writing on Twitter: "Such terribly sad news that one of our Colts, Luke Wheaton was tragically lost in the accident in Avonmouth yesterday morning.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking. All of our love & thoughts to Luke's family, team mates, coaches and everyone else that new him."

Specially-trained officers are supporting the family of the victims and post-mortems are under way before formal identifications are carried out, a force spokesman said.

Giles Hyder, HSE's head of operations in the South West said: "We send our deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically died. It is important a joint investigation is carried out.

"We will provide specialist support to what is likely to be a complex investigation under the command of the police."

On Thursday, Avon Fire and Rescue Service described the blast scene as "very challenging", while search and rescue dogs were deployed to identify the casualties.

Emergency services responded to the blast at around 11:20am on Thursday
Emergency services responded to the blast at around 11:20am on Thursday. Picture: PA

The explosion is not being treated as terror-related and there are not believed to be any ongoing public safety concerns.

Wessex Water chief executive Colin Skellett said: "We are all absolutely devastated by what has happened. Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives during the tragic event on Thursday.

"I know from the thoughts and comments I have received from so many, that this has affected the whole Wessex Water family.

"I know Avonmouth, I worked there for many years, and I know the people, some of whom have lost their lives during this terrible incident."