Fireworks Bosses Face Death Charge

Firefighter Deaths


The owners of a fireworks factory in which two firefighters died in an explosion have appeared in court charged with their manslaughter.

Martin Winter, 50, and his son Nathan Winter, 23, both directors of the East Sussex-based Alpha Fireworks Ltd, did not enter pleas at the preliminary hearing at Lewes Crown Court. They were granted bailed to appear at a further hearing at the same court on 3 September.

The men, both of Marlie Farm, Shortgate, near Lewes, were each charged earlier this month with two counts of manslaughter. The charges relate to the deaths of retained firefighter Geoff Wicker, 49, and support officer Brian Wembridge, 63, who attended the blaze at Marlie Farm on 3 December 2006.

The family-run company, which was known at the time as Festival Fireworks UK Ltd, is one of the biggest firework importers in the UK and was responsible for the Millennium display along the River Thames.

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David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Whilst the exact circumstances of this incident are unknown, industrial accidents that involve explosions can and often do lead to serious injuries or even fatalities.

"Those injuries can relate to workers, members of the public, or emergency service personnel.

"Companies involved in the manufacture, storage or distribution of explosive substances need to have proper systems in place to ensure people are not at risk of injury from fire or explosion.

"I represent many people who have been injured or killed in workplace accidents."

Mr Urpeth represented over 75 workers and many residents who were injured in the 2001 blast at the Killingholme refinery when over 170 tonnes of liquid petroleum gas caught fire. Conoco-Phillips, who owned the plant, was eventually fined £1m for breaching health and safety regulations after the explosion at its Humber refinery.