Firefighters were hit by a blast of heat’

PUBLISHED: 10:47 01 March 2007 | UPDATED: 15:01 12 May 2010

Harrowing details emerged during the second week of evidence at an inquest into how three people died in a blaze at a block of flats. Firefighters Jeff Wornham, 28, of Sandon, and Michael Miller, 26, of Stevenage, died in the fire, trying to save mother o

Harrowing details emerged during the second week of evidence at an inquest into how three people died in a blaze at a block of flats.

Firefighters Jeff Wornham, 28, of Sandon, and Michael Miller, 26, of Stevenage, died in the fire, trying to save mother of two Natalie Close, 32, who also died in the inferno at Harrow Court, Stevenage, in February, 2005.

A senior officer told the inquest at Hatfield that the two men died when they were engulfed in a fireball that may have reached in excess of 800c and that Ms Close was probably already dead before Mr Miller reached her in the bedroom and collapsed and died close to her.

Firefighters from Baldock found Mr Wornham's body in the lobby to the flat covered in plastic cables and had to use their knives to cut him free before using their axes to remove the melted plastic from his body.

Divisional officer Robert Stevenson, who investigated the tragedy, said: "They were hit by a blast of heat. It was very severe heat indeed."

Mr Stevenson also revealed that the hand-held radios used by the dead firefighters might not have been working properly, with one having been contaminated by water, with all three batteries in poor condition, while the battery operating Mr Wornham's distress signal unit was flat.

It was also stated that another officer, temporary leading firefighter Helen Antrobus, went into the lift with the two men who died, despite a senior officer shouting at her not to go up to the 14th floor blaze.

The inquest was told by leading firefighter Daren Scotchford that he shouted to Ms Antrobus not to enter the lift to ascend to the fire with Mr Wornham and Mr Miller.

"I shouted at Helen not to go up. She said nothing and entered the lift with Jeff and Mike," said Mr Scotchford, who also admitted under questioning by Mr Martin Seaward QC, that her actions annoyed him.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the inquest was told by assistant divisional officer Roger Day, who was in charge of the investigation, that he believed when the two firefighters who died went into the bedroom to try to rescue Ms Close, the conditions were verging on flashover and backdraft and very serious.

Mr Day said the investigation had used 24,000 images from 12 CCTV cameras in Harrow Court, and their final report was 70,000 words long.

Hertfordshire coroner Edward Thomas said he would be making 94 recommendations at the end of the inquest.

The inquest is expected to end on Friday, when the jury will deliver its verdict after hearing nine days of evidence.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Royston Crow. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Royston Crow