Hinckley Road explosion: investigation changes focus

Published on 27 February 2018

AFTER 36 hours of painstaking work, investigators at the scene of an explosion in Leicester have concluded that there are no survivors in the wreckage.

Much of the debris has now been carefully examined and removed from the site of the mini supermarket and flat in Hinckley Road.

Overnight and this morning, additional enquiries using listening equipment and specially-trained dogs have been carried out on the basement area of the building, reaching the conclusion that there are no survivors in the rubble.

Matt Cane, Group Manager from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said that the focus of the work was now a search for any other human remains over and above those already recovered from the scene.

He said: “Despite the ferocity of the explosion on Sunday evening, and the intensity of the ensuing fire, there was always a slim chance that, if there had been someone else in the building at the time of the explosion, they may have been found alive.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of other people having been in the premises at the time of the explosion whom we have yet to locate. While we have no intelligence to suggest this is the case, we cannot rule out that possibility until the search is over."

Leicestershire Police’s Superintendent Shane O’Neill said the care and attention displayed by investigators at the site during the “rescue” phase would continue to be shown as the investigation moved into this new “recovery” phase.

He said: “We have screened the site off and built a protective covering over the top to protect it, and the investigators, from the weather.

“Tragically, all we are now looking for are any further human remains. This is vital work that is being done, on behalf of the victims and their families, and it will take some time to complete.

“People lost their lives on Sunday in the most horrific way. We need to understand why the building exploded. But identifying the bodies we have recovered from the wreckage, and understanding the cause of the incident, is not an easy task, and I would continue to ask for the support and patience of local people as we carry out this serious and necessary work.

“Fire and police officers have been working night and day since Sunday evening at the scene, and we are extremely grateful for the support shown to us by local people and from local charities, providing food and refreshments to us."

Significant support is being provided by Police Family Liaison Officers to the families of the five people known to be missing.

And the city council is providing support, assistance and advice to the many local people, both residents and business owners, who have been affected by Sunday’s incident.

Mr Cane said: “The events of Sunday night have shaken this community. There are people who will have been deeply upset by what they heard and saw. There are others who may be distressed by the activity taking place at the scene, by the focus of the nation’s media on their neighbourhood, and by the presence of the media.

“There are others who are also suffering practical problems. Not everyone has been allowed back home or into their businesses. A few properties are still without power. People may have concerns about insurance.

“Whether there are practical or emotional problems, all the agencies involved in this operation want to help to support the community, today, tomorrow, and in the weeks and months to come.”

A rest centre was opened at St Anne’s Church in Letchworth Road to support residents who had to leave their homes. With most residents now returned home, the rest centre is today being converted into a support and information centre, staffed by experts who can assist people with concerns. It remains based at St Anne’s church, but will provide residents and businesses alike with important help and information.

Flowers and messages of sympathy for those who lost their lives in the explosion can be left at the Westcotes United Reformed Church, which is at the junction of Hinckley Rd and Westcotes Drive.

The A47 remains closed and is likely to remain so for the rest of today (27 February).