THE families of the four firefighters killed in the 2007 Atherstone-on-Stour warehouse blaze are "extremely disappointed" that Warwickshire's coroner has declined to resume the inquests into their deaths today (Friday).
Sean McGovern decided not to reopen the inquests because he believes most, if not all, of the matters due to be discussed had already been covered at the criminal cases heard at Stafford Crown Court last year.
“It is not clear to me what further investigation could be made that would throw significant new light on these deaths,” he said.
Reacting to his decision made at Warwickshire Justice Centre, in Leamington, this morning, Julie Reid, widow of firefighter Ian Reid, said: “This statement is fundamentally incorrect because during both trials held in May and December last year evidence in this case was known by the judge but not allowed in open court and members of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service chose to play down the appalling conditions at the Wealmoor warehouse fire in which my husband Ian together with his colleagues John [Averis], Darren [Yates-Badley] and Ashley [Stephens] so needlessly lost their lives.”
Unanimously, the families pleaded for the inquests to be resumed, but the three incident commanders who were acquitted of manslaughter last year argued against a resumption. Mrs Reid said: “Why would they seek to prevent the bereaved families of their lost colleagues from receiving full inquests? The only reason must be because they did not want to be put in the position of actually having to answer questions in relation to their actions and decision on that dreadful night.”
Julie Reid, right, widow of Ian Reid, with Mandy Baylis and Stephen Baylis, parents of Darren Yates-Badley, outside Warwickshire Justice Centre today.
At the short hearing this morning, the coroner pointed out this was to be the final legal process in relation to the firefighter’s death, unless the families appealed to the High Court for a judicial review.
Considering whether to do that, Mrs Reid urged “all families of firefighters who have lost their lives on duty to consider carefully whether or not they were satisfied with the inquests and support they have received and if not, to make contact with me.” She said: “Over the past five years I have been shocked and dismayed by the arrogant and small-minded attitude of firefighters and chief fire officers both in Warwickshire and across the UK as a whole.”
Offering his condolences to the families, Mr McGovern said: “I am aware of the devastation that these deaths caused then, now, and will continue to cause in the future. My decision not to resume the inquests is not a reflection of four great men who died in November 2007.”
Reacting to the coroner's decision, Warwickshire's chief fire officer Andy Hickmott said: "The coroner has recognised that the investigations and previous court hearings over more than five years have examined the circumstances fully.
"The loss of our brave firefighters John Averis, Ian Reid, Ashley Stephens, and Darren Yates-Badley, was a terrible tragedy that is still deeply felt within Warwickshire and across the British fire service. They continue to be remembered with pride and affection and our thoughts are with their families.”
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