A MAJOR investigation has been launched after two demolition workers were killed when fire broke out in a 46m-high chimney at the Carnaud Metalbox Food factory in Bolton last week.
The unnamed men where working in a cradle inside the metal chimney when they were engulfed in a fireball and plunged to the floor. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Greater Manchester Police said both men were from Nottingham, a 41-year-old from Bulwell and a 23-year-old from Arnold.
They were direct employees of Nottingham-based subcontractor Churchill Steeplejacks (UK), working for the main contractor, Bolton-based Walter Forshaw, on a demolition of the defunct chimney.
A spokesman for Churchill Steeplejacks said: 'We are waiting for the Health and Safety Executive and the police to complete their investigation until we are able to comment.'
Nobody was available for comment at Walter Forshaw.
An HSE spokesman said: 'The men were using oxypropane cutting gear to cut small sections to take scaffold tubes. When they were about half-way down the chimney there was a severe fire or explosion.'
The HSE is leading the investigation with the Greater Manchester Police, the Fire Brigade and the Forensic Science Services.
Three construction inspectors, two specialist construction inspectors, two fire and explosives specialists and two inspectors from the Health and Safety Laboratory are at the scene.
An investigation could not begin until two days after the fire because the site was too dangerous and had to be secured.
The bodies were initially left inside the chimney so investigators could piece together what happened. A post mortem was due to be carried out as Construction News went to press. Dental records will be used to identify the men.
Eyewitnesses Dave Hemp said: 'There didn't seem to be any bang or loud noise. But people soon saw the flames at the top of the chimney.'
Local resident Lisa Joel said: 'There just seemed to be these huge flames going up the side of the chimney. I had no idea there was anybody in or near it when it was ablaze.'