The scandal of the Didcot Disaster
It is almost 2,000 days since the boiler house at the Didcot A Power Station collapsed, claiming the lives of four demolition workers. The families of those four men and the wider demolition community are still waiting for an explanation five and a half years later. And there’s no end in sight.
I am not a big believer in conspiracy theories. I believe that 911 was the work of terrorists and not the US government. I believe that man really has walked upon the moon and that the lunar landing was not created by Stanley Kubrick in a secret film studio. I don’t believe there is a secret stash of little green men at Area 51. And I accept that an Elvis Presley comeback tour now seems increasingly unlikely.
All that being said, there is something about the scandalous length of time it is taking to investigate the Didcot Disaster that killed four men back in 2016 that is now just starting to smell if not fishy then certainly fish-adjacent.
I realise there’s a lot of evidence to go through — 2,429 witness interviews and 180,000 “artefacts at last count. But we are now 56 months into that investigation. This has now gone beyond diligence and scrupulousness and has now strayed dangerously close to the waters of delaying tactics.
Are we honestly to believe that the combined forces of the Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive are giving this their full attention. Or has this been handed to an unpaid intern, working three days a week, who dredges through those artefacts during his or her lunch-break?
There is no doubt in my mind that the responsibility for this now scandalous level of delay rest almost entirely with the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE has form in this area. Its prosecution of site fatalities are so painfully slow that, aside from those directly impacted by the site death, most of us have actually forgotten the original incident when it is finally resolved.
Thames Valley Police have a part to play as well. This is an incident involving multiple deaths that has been on their open case files for five and a half years now. Would that be the case if those deaths had been caused by a motor vehicle incident; a mass stabbing; or a terrorist attack?
And then there are the outliers that must also carry a degree of responsibility for watching silently from the shadows.
There were questions raised in the House of Commons about the Didcot Disaster when it first happened. But aside from those seeking a TV or radio sound-bite when each anniversary rolls around, politicians now appear to have simply moved on.
The wider media fell upon the town of Didcot the day after the boiler house collapse like so many scavenging vultures. But with each passing year, the death of those four men has slipped further and further from the headlines.
Now, with the notable exception of BBC Radio Oxford and the Oxford Mail newspaper, any new development (or lack thereof) in the investigation now goes largely unreported.
The original incident was unquestionably a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. What has happened (or not happened) since is a disgrace, a travesty and a scandal.
The next time the “industry” sits down with the HSE, rather than enquiring about what aspect of demolition investigators will be focusing upon to help swell the Executive’s coffers, perhaps the “industry” might just ask what the f**k the HSE has been playing at for the past five and a half years.
Mark Anthony is editor of DemolitionNews.com