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Police close investigation into Avonmouth explosion that killed four people – updates

Police close investigation into Avonmouth explosion that killed four people – updates

Avon and Somerset Police have closed their investigation into the explosion at a water recycling centre in Avonmouth which killed three men and a teenager. The fatal explosion claimed the lives of Luke Wheaton, Ray White, Brian Vickery and Mike James on December 3, 2020. We will update this story below as it develops.

Since then, the Major Crime Investigation Team has been investigating the cause of the explosion with the support of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Enquiries are focused on establishing whether any individuals or organisations were responsible for the explosion, and whether any health and safety offences were committed.




The families of the four victims have been regularly updated with any significant developments. MCIT detectives and HSE investigators recently met with the Crown Prosecution Service to review the evidence gathered.

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It was subsequently decided that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction for manslaughter. While this decision marks the end of the police investigation, the HSE will continue to investigate to determine whether offences have been committed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Almond said: “The families of Luke, Ray, Brian and Mike have been in our thoughts throughout our investigation. The families have shown great dignity and patience as we have conducted our inquiries and I would like to publicly thank them for their support and understanding over the past three and a half years.

“Investigations of this nature are incredibly complex and require the support of other agencies to gather evidence and then a variety of experts to help us interpret what that evidence tells us. In this case, the evidence we gathered does not meet the incredibly high threshold for any crime of murder.


“We have met with all the families to explain the situation to them and to let them know what will happen next once the HSE takes responsibility for the investigation.”

HSE Chief Inspector Simon Chilcott said: “We have been involved in this complex investigation from the outset. As the lead agency, we will now continue to conduct a robust criminal investigation to establish whether any breaches of health and safety law occurred. We are in regular contact with the families, and our thoughts are with them.”

Updates will appear on our blog below:


Explosion damage

Aerial view of the damage caused by the explosion at the Kings Weston Lane Water Recycling Centre(Photo: Tom Wren/SWNS)

A timeline of the tragic explosion that occurred almost four years ago

Inquiries will continue

The police added that while the decision means the police investigation is over, the HSE will continue its investigation to determine whether any offences have been committed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Four victims

Luke Wheaton, Ray White, Brian Vickery and Mike James

How Family and Friends Created a Lasting Legacy

It was the worst fatal workplace accident in Bristol for decades. Since then, the families of the four victims have been coping quietly with their grief, patiently waiting for the police and HSE to complete their investigations and thanking everyone who has sent messages of condolence, raised funds and organised special events and projects in their memory.

In the hours after the explosion, which occurred at 11.18am on a chilly Thursday morning, former Prime Minister and Sir Keir Starmer, water industry workers and ordinary people from Bristol and across the country paid tributes and expressed their condolences.

Following the tragedy, families, through the police, offered their own heartfelt and moving tributes to their loved ones.

Read the full story here.

Four of the victims were working on the roof of the silo.

Since the tragedy, it has emerged that the men had been working on the roof of a silo that contained bio-solid waste, processed organic matter such as food and animal waste that was broken down into agricultural fertiliser. The four were known to have been working with angle grinders on the roof and it is believed that a spark from this work may have caused methane to build up in the space at the top of the tank beneath their feet.

What happened at the moment of the explosion?

Luke Wheaton, 16, from Bradley Stoke; Ray White, 57, from Portishead; Brian Vickery, 63, from Clevedon and Mike James, 64, from Bath were killed as they worked on the roof of a silo at Wessex Water’s water treatment plant in Avonmouth, Bristol, on December 3, 2020.

“Insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction for murder”

Avon and Somerset Police added: “Detectives from MCIT and HSE investigators recently met with representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service to review the evidence gathered.

“A decision was subsequently made that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction for murder.

“While this decision brings the police investigation to an end, the HSE will continue to conduct enquiries to determine whether offences have been committed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.”

Police statement released this morning

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Almond said: “Our thoughts have been with the families of Luke, Ray, Brian and Mike throughout this investigation.

“The families have shown great dignity and patience as we have conducted this investigation. I would like to publicly thank them for their support and understanding over the past three and a half years.”

He added: “Investigations of this nature are incredibly complex and require the support of other agencies to gather the evidence and then a range of experts to help us interpret what that evidence tells us.

“In this case, the evidence we collected does not meet the requirements to initiate criminal proceedings for murder.

“We have met with all the families to explain the situation to them and to let them know what will happen next once the HSE takes responsibility for the investigation.”

HSE Chief Inspector Simon Chilcott said: “We have been involved in this complex investigation from the outset. As the lead agency, we will now continue with a robust criminal investigation to establish whether any breaches of health and safety law occurred.

“We are in constant contact with the families and our thoughts are with them.”