Atherstone blaze
Sprinklers had not been connected at warehouse

By Steve Hayes 25/04 Updated: 25/04 10:11

WATER sprinklers had not been connected at a warehouse in Atherstone when a blaze there killed four firefighters in 2007 - a court has heard.

Warehouse manager, Andrew Tenney, told Stafford Crown Court he had raised concerns over fire safety measures with the owners prior to the blaze as he was questioned by barristers for the defence.

Warwickshire fire service managers Timothy Woodward, 51, Paul Simmons, 45, and Adrian Ashley, 50, deny manslaughter by gross negligence.

Mr Woodward is a station manager from Leamington while Mr Simmons, from Hampton Magna, and Mr Ashley, from Nuneaton, are watch managers for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Ashley Stephens, 20, John Averis, 27, and Darren Yates-Badley, 24, died in the 2007 blaze. Ian Reid, 44, died later in hospital.

The prosecution claims three fire service managers failed to assess the risks properly, or review the way they tackled the fire and also failed to withdraw the breathing apparatus teams when it was obvious the situation was deteriorating.

It was, allege prosecutors, 'a gross departure of standards' expected from a reasonably competent commander.

And the prosecution claims the men were consequently needlessly sent into an obviously dangerous situation where no people were at risk.

Mr Tenney, an engineering manager who was also a fire warden at the warehouse, told the court he had raised concerns about fire safety with the owners.

He said the sprinkler system had not been connected and he was concerned about a lack of fire escapes outside the building.

The fire started at the vegetable packing plant on Atherstone Industrial Estate in the early evening of November 2.

Mr Teeney made a series of plans regarding the layout of the building to assist firefighters on the night.

Defence barrister Neil Fitzgibbon QC asked Mr Tenney if he accepted because of all the activity on the night, he may have 'genuinely and honestly' got some details wrong, to which he answered 'yes'.

The trial continues.

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