ONE of the major contractors working at Didcot Power Station when it collapsed in 2016 has said its own investigations ‘clearly show’ why the boiler house collapsed, killing four men.

Demolition specialists Coleman and Company were speaking after a pre-inquest hearing into the deaths of Ken Cresswell, 57, John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, Michael Collings, 53, from Teesside, and Christopher Huxtable, 34, from Swansea.

During this brief hearing at Oxford Coroner’s Court yesterday, Thames Valley Police revealed its investigation into the disaster is on-going and statements have been taken from 1,900 people.

The force also revealed it had questioned several people under caution in connection with the collapse on February 23, 2016, and may still charge a number of individuals and companies with offences including corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter.

But Coleman and Company, which had been deconstructing the site at the time, said the evidence police had shared, combined with its own investigations, show the business should not be linked with any manslaughter charges. 

James Howard, a Coleman and Company director, added that he ‘shared the frustrations’ of those families affected that the investigation was still not completed.

Speaking at the hearing, the Senior Investigating Officer DCI Craig Kirby gave an update on the ‘extremely wide-scale and hugely complex investigation’.

He said ‘a number of interviews have been conducted under caution’ in line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

An initial file was submitted by officers to the Crown Prosecution Service on December 29, 2017, for consideration and investigative advice but no charges have yet been brought.

The four workers were killed when units one and two of the boiler house of the coal power station collapsed.

It took more than six months for their bodies to be recovered from the site.

The coal-fired station was shut in March 2013 after 43 years of operations and was due to have been cleared by the end of 2017.

DCI Kirby said the site remains a crime scene with a 24-hour police presence and independent contractors continue the work to identify and recover evidence from boilers three and four, which started in June 2017 and is likely to continue until the spring.

A completion date for the investigation is not possible, due to its complexity and the ‘volume of material being examined’, according to DCI Kirby.

He assured friends and family of the deceased that all lines of inquiry are being explored.

Despite this, Coleman and Company said it already knows how and why the boiler house units collapsed and that the findings ‘highlight industry-wide practices that need to be challenged and reviewed’.

Mr Howard said it was ‘perhaps understandable’ that Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive had not yet taken a view on the cause of the collapse, given the size of the investigation. 

But he added: “The company shares in the frustration and disappointment that this has created, and continues to create, for all those affected.”

Talking about the company’s own investigation, he added: “We now consider it essential to share this learning as a matter of urgency so that immediate steps can be taken within the industry to prevent future loss of life so that the families can begin to understand what caused this dreadful accident.”

The company will be writing to the police and the Health and Safety Executive on the matter.

Coroner Darren Salter said it has been an ‘extraordinarily difficult’ case for the families involved. 

He said it was uncertain whether a full inquest will go ahead, given the ongoing criminal investigation, but the hearing was called to ensure families and others are informed about what is happening.