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Fire chiefs deny warehouse manslaughter charges.

THREE fire service managers have pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of four of their colleagues who died in a warehouse blaze.

Station manager Timothy Woodward and watch managers Paul Simmons and Adrian Ashley entered their formal pleas at Stafford Crown Court ahead of a trial which is expected to last for up to 10 weeks.

All three men were charged with gross negligence manslaughter in February last year following an inquiry into the deaths of Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley in November 2007.

Mr Reid, 44, died after being taken to hospital from the scene of the blaze in Atherstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire, on November 2, while the bodies of Mr Averis, 27, Mr Stephens, 20, and 24-yearold Mr Yates-Badley were recovered from the scene four days later. Simmons, 51, from Hampton Magna, Warwickshire, Ashley, 45, from Nuneaton, and Woodward, 50, from Leamington, each deny four separate counts of manslaughter.

All the charges against the defendants allege that they unlawfully killed the men who died by gross negligence while acting as incident commanders during the blaze. The indictment further alleges that Simmons and Ashley breached their duty of care to those who were killed by "exposing them to substantial risk to life when no other lives were at risk".

Woodward is alleged to have breached his duty of care to the deceased by failing to end the deployment of colleagues wearing breathing apparatus for the purpose of "offensive" firefighting.

The case, which is expected to be opened by prosecutor Richard Matthews QC today.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 20, 2012
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