Victims of fireworks factory fire identified

Victims of fireworks factory fire identified

The families of two men believed to have died in a fire at a fireworks warehouse in England have spoken of their devastation.

Simon Hillier, 41, was described as a “fantastic son and brother” and a “terrific dad” while relatives of Stewart Staples, 57, said he was a “devoted family man”.

The men are thought to have perished in the blaze at the SP Plastics industrial unit on the Baswich Industrial Estate in Stafford on Thursday.

Mr Hillier's family said in a statement: "Whilst we are still waiting for a formal identification to be made, as a family we are resigned to the fact that we will not see Simon again.

“We are all very proud of his sporting achievements and in everything else he did in life.

“He was a fantastic son and brother and a terrific dad, we all miss him dearly.”

It has emerged that Mr Staples, a married father-of-three and grandfather - worked as a laboratory manager at Staffordshire County Council.

Detectives believe Mr Hillier was working at the site, while it is thought Mr Staples was a customer. Both men are from Hednesford.

Superintendent Ian Coxhead said: “Sadly, our inquiries have placed both men at the scene when the fire started.

“Our sympathies remain with the families involved and we’re doing everything we can to help them at this distressing time.

“It is believed Simon was working at the premises while it’s thought Stewart was a customer.”

He said the “dangerous scene” remains cordoned off while fire service and police investigators continue their probe.

Mr Coxhead said: “We anticipate this will be a lengthy and complex investigation, our work to establish the cause of the fire is going to take considerable time.

“We’ve been able to reduce the size of the cordon and hope that all neighbouring businesses will have access to reopen on Monday.

“Officers at the scene will keep the affected community updated.”

The industrial unit off Tilcon Avenue, which is just a few hundred yards from 150 homes, had been used to store what police described as “a significant volume of fireworks”.

However, the local council confirmed there have been “no safety issues” with SP Plastics, and it had been licensed to sell fireworks for four years.

Dramatic footage of the fire showed thick plumes of smoke and bursts of fireworks exploding in all directions from the building – a scene described as “horrendous” by bystanders.

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