Issued on 12/3/18 at 1:00 p.m.
Investigations at the scene of an explosion in Leicester which claimed five lives will formally conclude today (Monday 12 March).
Two weeks after the explosion which demolished the mini supermarket and two storey flat above it, police, fire and specialists will this morning hand the site over to Leicester City Council.
The council will now start the process of undertaking work at the scene to enable the area to be fully re-opened to pedestrians and traffic.
Shortly after 7pm on Sunday 25 February, an explosion destroyed the flat and supermarket and an intense fire broke out.
Emergency crews were quickly on the scene and several people were taken by ambulance to hospital, one of whom remains in a critical condition.
A search and rescue operation was launched, with firefighters quelling the blaze and working alongside police officers and members of the public in an attempt to rescue anyone trapped under the wreckage.
Sadly, the investigation moved into a search and recovery operation, looking for the remains of those believed to have been killed in the explosion.
It is now known that five people lost their lives in the incident.
Superintendent Shane O’Neill said: “The work facing investigators at the scene in Hinckley Road has been extremely challenging, and harrowing for those on the site. Not only have we been looking for clues to explain the cause of the explosion, but – tragically – we have also been looking for the remains of those who lost their lives that night. The task has been gruelling and extremely upsetting, made even more challenging by the terrible weather conditions we have experienced.
“Throughout these long, two weeks, we’ve had to ensure the safety of the officers and investigators is protected, and have had to suspend work on several occasions to allow further demolition work of neighbouring structures to take place.
“Over the last fortnight, 100s of people have been involved in the operation, from firefighters and police officers to council staff and regional and national colleagues who have expertise in in such recovery work.
“We have now fully examined the site and recovered all the debris and can this morning hand over control of the area to the City Council.
“Everything we recovered from the scene has been removed to a secure location where the painstaking work of examination continues.”
Leicestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) led the multi-agency response in the first few days following the blast.
Matt Cane, Group Manager from LFRS said: “I’d like to thank all the emergency services involved in the response to the incident and to the search teams who have remained on site in Hinckley Road for their tireless work over the past two weeks. “All officers, staff and volunteers have been working in incredibly difficult conditions but have conducted their work with dignity, compassion and the utmost professionalism. While they will say they were just doing their job, it has been an extremely difficult one.” Supt O’Neill added: “We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from local residents and from several charities who have shown patience, understanding and kindness to the crews who have been working at the site.
“We have all been acutely conscious of the deep upset and shock caused by the incident, and by the incredible inconvenience suffered by those unable to stay in their homes or access their businesses, and more generally by the travelling public due to the road closure.
“With our work at the scene now completed, we very much hope life can begin to return to some degree of normality”.
Leicester City Council will now continue to clear the site and carry out repairs to the pavement and road in order to re-open Hinckley Road as soon as possible.
It is likely that a safety cordon will be in place for at least one more week and the inbound lane of Hinckley Road, from its junction with Woodville Road, will remain closed for the time being.