Fireworks Factory Death Pair Jailed

Firemen Killed In Explosion


A fireworks company owner and his son have been jailed for the manslaughter of two firemen who died in a large explosion at the family-run firm near Lewes, East Sussex.

Fifty-two-year-old Martin Winter was jailed for seven years while his son Nathan, 25, was sentenced to five years following the five-week trial at Lewes Crown Court. The pair had both denied manslaughter.

Retained firefighter Geoff Wicker, 49, and 63-year-old support officer Brian Wembridge - both long-serving members of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service - died in the blast at Festival Fireworks UK at Marlie Farm in Shortgate, on December 3, 2006.

Following the trial, both Martin and Nathan Winter were found to be "grossly negligent" through knowing an unlicensed metal container packed with fireworks could explode if a blaze broke out.

Their firm, now called Alpha Fireworks, was convicted of two counts of health and safety breaches in connection with the blast, which injured some 20 others, mainly police and fire officers. It was fined £30,000.

The judge, Mr Justice Cooke, told the father and son in the dock: "You had deliberately placed fireworks capable of causing mass explosion knowing that you didn't have the authorisation.
"You deliberately flouted the explosives regulations for profits, no doubt familiarity bred contempt."

He described Martin Winter as "reckless" in the handling and storage of fireworks and failing to give full and accurate information.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “I welcome the sentences imposed following this tragic fatal accident at work.

“Explosions at work have the potential to injure and kill both workers and third parties including local residents and members of the emergency services.

“The sad fact of this work accident is that is could and should have been avoided.”