Bridegroom charged with arson after 100 firefighters battle blaze at historic castle

A 36-year-old man has been charged with arson following a large fire at Peckforton Castle, in Cheshire. According to sources the man was the bridegroom of a wedding due to take place at the castle.

Just before 5 am on 19 June firefighters and police were called to the scene of the blaze, which affected one wing of the castle.

The building, built in the early 19th century, is used as a wedding and hotel venue and was evacuated of around 70 guests.

Fire crews were later able to surround the fire despite having to deal with a complex layout in the castle wing, Chester Fire and Rescue service said.

Firefighting operations continued during the day with some crews operating from a hydraulic platform at the rear of the premises while others wearing breathing apparatus entered the affected wing from the inner courtyard.

All three floors of the affected wing were ‘extensively involved’ in the fire, including hotel bedrooms and offices, the fire service said.

At 7.30 pm that day, the number of appliances was scaled back. Firefighters stayed overnight damping down and monitoring hotspots using thermal imaging cameras.

The man, charged with arson with intent to endanger life and arson reckless as to whether life is endangered, is to appear at Chester Crown Court on 26 July.

Council prosecuted after girl trapped in swimming pool

Castle Point Borough Council has been prosecuted by the HSE following an incident where a seven-year-old girl was trapped by a water outlet at the Waterside Swimming Pool on Canvey Island.

The seven-year-old girl was using the swimming pool with her great grandfather at Waterside Farm Leisure Centre. Her hair was sucked into the water sampling outlet on the side of the pool, trapping her underwater for two minutes and 36 seconds. Her great grandfather had to pull a clump of hair from her head in order to free her. She was unconscious when she was finally taken out of the water, limp and blue in colour, but came round once laid on the poolside.

HSE told Basildon Magistrates’ Court today that Castle Point Borough Council, which owns and runs the swimming pool, had not managed the risks to members of the public using it. In particular the council failed to ensure that the sample outlet had two vents so if one became blocked the other vent would take the pressure off the suction. There were too few lifeguards on duty and of the two that were working, one was cleaning and the other could not see the whole pool due to the glare from sunlight reflecting on the water.

After the hearing, HSE commented: “This incident was extremely traumatic for the young girl and her great grandfather and it could have had far more serious consequences. Managed properly, swimming pools are a place for fun and exercise yet the council put pool users at risk of entrapment by not properly maintaining the water outlets.”

Castle Point Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

Company fined for failing to provide hot water

A North Devon decorating supplies firm has been fined after HSE inspectors discovered it had not provided employees with hot water to wash their hands, despite the fact they were at risk of contracting dermatitis.

Mike Wye and Associates Ltd, who produce natural building and decorating products, failed to provide hot water over a period of four years despite workers using hydrated lime for the manufacture of lime putty. Hydrated lime is a well-known irritant to both skin and eyes and can cause dermatitis.

The HSE told Barnstaple Magistrates that running water was provided at the Buckland Filleigh Sawmills site, but this froze in the winter.

After the hearing, HSE commented: “The provision of hot running water is one of the most basic rights for workers, especially when they are dealing with materials that could cause skin disease.

“Although the company provided cold water and gel this did not encourage workers to wash their hands.”

Mike Wye and Associates Ltd pleaded guilty to three contraventions of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and were fined a total of £3,500 with £588 costs.

Man accused of arson after serious hotel blaze

A 63-year-old man has been charged with arson with intent to endanger life following a serious fire at a Devon hotel.

Anthony Westhead, 63, appeared at Barnstable Magistrates Court on 2 June and has been remanded in custody until 17 June, where he is due to appear at Exeter Crown Court.

Firefighters rescued four people from the blaze, at Tantons Hotel, Bideford, on 31 May. The hotel was evacuated of the rest of its guests, 51 in total.

The fire started on the third floor of the four-storey hotel in the early hours of the morning. It spread throughout the building but was under control after about five hours, with crews scaling down at 9 am.

According to Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, 20% of the third floor was severely damaged by fire, heat and smoke. The fire, which spread to the fourth and second floor, caused considerable damage to 20% of the roof space. A total of 10% of the second floor was also damaged by fire, heat and smoke.

Serious blaze at Co-op store started in a freezer

A fire that seriously damaged a Co-operative store started in a freezer at the back of the shop.

A customer alerted a staff member to the fire, who then activated the alarm and evacuated the three-storey building of people.

Fire crews arrived at the shop, in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, just after 4.30 pm on 1 June. Finding the building completely smoke logged and with a complex layout, firefighters called for back up. Around 35 firefighters attended at the height of the blaze, which took around five hours to extinguish.

High pressure water hoses and thermal imaging cameras were used, as well as a positive pressure ventilation fan to remove any remaining smoke. According to Fire and Rescue service, the grade two listed building was severly affected. A total of 20% of the ground floor, 20% of the first floor and 10% of the roof space were severely damaged by fire.

tore manager, Dee Anderson, said: “Flames were coming out of the middle freezer in the back of the shop. My staff immediately operated the fire alarm, and then ensured everyone left the building safely and stayed out as well as evacuating neighbouring properties in case the fire spread.

“The fire service did a good job in tackling the fire so quickly. They were very reassuring and supportive throughout, keeping us informed and giving us advice about what we could consider doing after the fire.”

Station manager, Clive Pugh, said: “All the firefighters worked effectively in putting the fire out safely without delay. The building design, age, and smoke logging made this a challenging incident, and meant a large number of firefighters were needed to search the building and ensure the fire did not spread.”

National Film and Television School fined after volunteer is paralysed

The National Film and Television School has been fined after a volunteer was left permanently paralysed after falling 2.25 metres from a mock staircase on set.

The school, which provides education in film and TV production, was prosecuted for safety breaches that led to the 2008 incident at Beaconsfield Film Studios in Buckinghamshire.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the school for not having a safe system in place to prevent falls. High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court heard it was evident the school did not have adequate management arrangements for the effective planning and execution of the student film it was producing at the time.

Magistrates heard, the 34-year-old woman, who does not wish to be named, was working as a volunteer costume designer for the production. She was attending to an actor’s costume before filming, when she fell from an unguarded platform edge at the top of a staircase that formed part of the set.

The woman was critically injured, fracturing vertebrae in her back and was diagnosed with permanent paralysis from the waist down. She has been left in chronic pain.

The HSE investigation found there was no edge protection at the top of the stairs. Actors, carpenters and other students were at risk of falling while carrying out assembly, decoration and lighting work from the staircase.

After the hearing, HSE commented: “This terrible incident was clearly preventable if a safe system of work had been put in place by The National Film and Television School during the initial production stages.

“A variety of methods can easily be used to prevent people or objects falling on theatre sets, depending on the visual appearance desired. It could be as simple as having edge protection at the end of a platform, or having safety restraint harnesses attached to people.

“Of course, last minute creative changes can occur during filming which it why it is essential an existing safe system of work is in place, with the main objective being to stop incidents like this happening.”

The National Film and Television School, of Beaconsfield Film Studios, Station Road, Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The organisation was fined £17,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,787.

Car hung over cliff edge at unprotected car park

A landowner has been jailed for nine months for failing to comply with enforcement notices, which required him to put edge protection around a hillside car park. In February 2008 the HSE received a complaint from a member of the public that a site in The Burrows, St Ives, was being used as a car park near the edge of a valley slope, with a steep 30-metre drop to houses below. The HSE visited the site, which was owned by Nicholas Andrew Eastwood, and found that the site was split into three sections. The land was located next to Mr Eastwood’s home. The lower part of the site was being used as a car park and there were no barriers to prevent cars, or pedestrians from accessing the edge of the slope. An adjacent area of land, which was also being used as a car park, was found to be similarly lacking in edge protection. The final part of the site was on higher land and this was being used as a compound for a construction company. Here, too, there were no barriers in place to stop the firm working close to the edge of the slope. Inspectors issued a Prohibition Notice to Eastwood, which required him to prevent parking within five metres of the slope edge. Two Improvement Notices were also issued requiring edge protection to be put in place around the valley edge of the lower car park, and for a geographical survey to be carried out at the site as there was evidence of subsidence around the edge. The HSE also issued a Prohibition Notice to Eastwood’s son, Nicholas Colin Eastwood, as he was responsible for managing the middle car park and the part of the site housing the construction company’s compound. The notice required barriers to be put in place five metres away from the edge in both areas. When the inspectors returned they found that, although his son had abided by the Prohibition Notice, Nicholas Andrew Eastwood had not taken any action to comply with the notices issued against him in respect of the lower car park. Consequently, the HSE began prosecution proceedings against him on account of his failure to comply. Despite the prosecution hanging over him, Nicholas Andrew Eastwood continued to ignore the notices and, emergency services were called to the site because a car was spotted hanging over the edge of the slope. Householders living below the site were evacuated while the car was removed. Penwith District Council, now Cornwall Council, subsequently took steps to prevent members of the public from accessing the car park as the edge remained unprotected. Nicholas Andrew Eastwood appeared at Truro Crown Court on 25 May and was given a nine-month custodial sentence after pleading guilty to breaching s3(2) and 33(1)(g) of the HSWA 1974. In mitigation, he told the court that he had no previous safety convictions. He said he had been given conflicting advice from the HSE and the council and, as a result, was not sure of what action he was required to take. He believed that both authorities were conspiring against him, as they did not want the site to be used as a car park.

Buried Alive

A foreign construction worker was buried alive during the building of a basement at a property in London, the Central Criminal Court has heard. Arlindo Visentin, a 58-year-old worker from Brazil, was part of a team of four men employed by Nadeem Aftab to build a basement at a private property in Belgravia, when the incident took place. The team had underpinned the building’s walls and the earth that remained following the underpinning had been placed in the central part of the basement. A trench ran between the earth and all four walls, but the earth was not properly supported and cracked and gave way while Mr Visentin was inside the trench. When they saw the crack develop, his colleagues shouted to warn him that the trench was about to collapse, but he did not understand much English and so did not attempt to escape. He was subsequently submerged beneath approximately five tonnes of dirt when the trench collapsed. His colleagues dug him out of the dirt and drove him to hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The HSE visited the scene on the same day and found that the trench walls were not properly supported and that the underpinning operation had not been properly planned. There was also no edge protection in place at the top of the basement to prevent falls into the excavation. A Prohibition Notice was issued to Aftab, which required work at the site to cease until the earth was properly supported and edge protection was put in place. HSE commented: “Mr Visentin spoke very little English and did not share a common language with any of the other workers, or with Mr Aftab. “This incident highlights the need to have effective worker consultation and communication with all employees to ensure they understand the control measures that should be in place to prevent harm. “Basement conversions involving underpinning are significant engineering projects and should be planned and managed by competent people. As a part of this, a competent temporary works engineer should design an appropriate sequence of works, and the work should be actively managed by a person who had the necessary knowledge, training and experience to ensure it is carried out safely.” Aftab appeared at the Old Bailey on 24 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £61,590 in costs. In mitigation, he said he had no previous convictions and told the court he was in poor health at the time of the incident, which had not left him in a fit state to manage the site. He added that he never restarted work at the site, as the property owner hired a new contractor to finish the renovations after the incident.