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Chimney fire manslaughter case dropped


A MANSLAUGHTER case against three factory managers following the horrific death of two steeplejacks in May 2002 at the Carnaud Metalbox Factory in Bolton has been dropped.

Craig Whelan, 23, and Paul Wakefield, 40, died in temperatures of 220 deg C when flames melted steel cables holding their cradle half-way up a disused chimney, which crashed 30 m to the floor.They were working for Nottingham firm Churchill Steeplejack.

Following 12 days of evidence at Preston Crown Court, the jury heard last week that the prosecution had accepted an amended charge of failing to discharge an employee's duty to take reasonable care for health and safety.

No evidence was offered by the Crown on the charge of manslaughter.

Ian Billington, 39, of Dunscar, and Colin Stevens, 57, of Lostock, along with John Kither from Swansea pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety legislation and were fined a total of £17,000 between them.

The court heard how Mr Whelan and Mr Wakefield were using hot cutting equipment which ignited a flammable tar coating the inside of the chimney sparking a deadly fireball.