Six years and counting

Maybe I should have paced myself. Maybe I should have squirrelled away some meaningful words, a nifty yet profound turn of phrase. And maybe, if I had thought we might still be talking about the lack of resolution to the investigation into the Didcot Disaster that claimed the lives of four demolition workers in 2016, I would have saved one or two journalistic nuggets with which to entertain, enlighten and enthral.

Sadly, I was not blessed with such foresight and so, three days before we mark the sixth anniversary of the UK demolition industry’s darkest day, I find myself bereft in every sense of the word.

I have nothing new to say. No new words of comfort for the families of the four men that died unnecessarily on that day. No new words of insight and explanation that might avoid a repeat of that tragedy. And no new words with which to make the demolition industry feel in any way safer or more secure.

I am spent. My sadness has given way to frustration and anger: frustration at the 2,190 days of “investigation” without progress; anger at the fact that the only people that seem to care are the families of the four men and a small handful of demolition folk.

This year, I feel the pain of the four families even more keenly than I have previously. The sixth anniversary of the Didcot Disaster will mark one week since I said my final goodbye to my own mother. Yet her passing was very different.

She was 79-years old and had lived a full life. Myself and my family know precisely how she died and when. Although she fought bravely to the very end, she accepted that her life had run its course. We all got to say goodbye.

The families of the four men that died at the Didcot A Power Station were afforded no such luxuries. Six years on, they still have no clue as to why their loved ones perished while going about their business. They have no idea how or exactly when their final demise occurred. They had no opportunity to say goodbye.

In the six years since that fateful day, the world has moved on. The politicians that crawled out of the woodwork to grab their 15 minutes of fame through association with this human tragedy have found other vote-winning fish to fry. The media that camped out at Didcot for a week or more in the days after the disaster are now more fixated on the party schedule of the prime minister and the sexual preferences of a disgraced but perspiration-free prince.
Meanwhile, having seemingly achieved nothing in the past six years, the Health and Safety Executive manged to send out an email bulletin warning of the dangers of working at height during high winds as Storm Eunice huffed and puffed its way across the UK. And Thames Valley Police officers were busy ensuring that motorists were not using their mobile phones while driving. Perhaps they need to replenish the coffers after spending millions on a six- year investigation that has gone precisely nowhere.

As I said previously, 23 February 2016 was the UK demolition industry’s darkest day. Each day without resolution that has elapsed since has compounded that darkness still further. It has heaped indignity upon the investigating authorities, and it has called into question how the industry cares for its own.

On 23 February 2022, we should mark the sixth anniversary by taking a moment of reflection while bowing our heads: partly out of sadness and remembrance; but also out of shame. This tragedy unfolded on OUR watch and in OUR industry. The fact that we have each allowed the authorities to drag their heels for 2,190 days is upon us all.

Mark Anthony is the editor of DemolitionNews.com and the host of The Break Fast Show.

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