On Monday, Coleman & Company handed over the recovery operation at Didcot A Power Station to Brown and Mason.
The day before the handover, I was invited by the firm to attend a short ceremony in front of the boiler house, where three of the firm’s employees are still missing.
It was a highly emotional day, with more than 150 of Coleman & Co’s 200 employees in attendance, as well as family members of the three missing men and Michael Collings, who was killed in the incident.
We assembled in front of the floral tributes that have been laid out for the four men: Christopher Huxtable, Ken Cresswell, John Shaw and Michael Collings.
Speaking to the group, managing director Mark Coleman said: “Chris, John, Kenny and Mick were characters in their own right, true demolition men that dedicated their lives to their families by being committed, loyal, reliable, hard-working men. They will be sorely missed but never forgotten.”
He went on to show appreciation for the work done by his employees on the recovery operation. Many of those involved have been searching for friends and former schoolmates, not just colleagues.
Mr Coleman said: “These men have done a remarkable job and all credit and respect is due for the valiant efforts during the first stage of the recovery.
“This is not the time for cheers and a round of applause. But I know deep down everyone here today is here because we all applaud you for what you have done. So well done and thank you.”
RWE project manager Mike Peel also thanked Coleman & Co for its work at a trying time, and said the decision to appoint Brown and Mason to continue the recovery was no reflection on the work that had been done.
Four wreaths were laid at the site of the floral tribute before a four-minute silence was held.
The atmosphere was solemn and respectful; there were some tears, but also a sense of defiance in the face of adversity. The gathering was a stirring tribute to the work that has been done here, and to the men who are still to be found.
The scale of the boiler house is hard to comprehend until you see it up close: it is a tall structure, and the nature of the partial collapse means its exposed face looks imposing and dangerous. The location of this gathering, almost in its shadow, was especially poignant.
Coleman & Co has worked around the clock to clear up a huge amount of the debris on the ground, working right up to the 50 m exclusion zone that has been imposed around the remaining structure. The work has now gone as far as it can as long as that exclusion zone remains in place – or until the remaining structure is brought down.
There is a sense of understandable disappointment within Coleman & Co that it will not be allowed to finish this recovery and find its men.
Coleman & Co is still set to carry out the demolition of the rest of the power station, which includes the chimney and three more cooling towers. That will be far from easy now.
But the company will want to do right by its men and see the job through, and it has had assurances from RWE that work will continue once this incident is resolved.
Sunday’s ceremony was a strong show of support from Coleman & Co’s employees to each other, as well as to the families affected. It was the sign of respect and appreciation that its MD wished it would be, as the search for the missing men continues.
Construction News today publishes its first ever podcast. Deputy editor Tom Fitzpatrick and I visited the Camden Academy of training organisation Building Lives, to reflect on one year since the #loveLIVES campaign raised £400,000 in 50 days. Building Lives is again facing closure – listen here to find out more.
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