Didcot power station to be demolished in bid to find missing Rotherham men

The partially collapsed Didcot power plant
The partially collapsed Didcot power plant
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The remaining structure of Didcot power station will be demolished as efforts continue to locate two Rotherham men killed when part of it collapsed four months ago.

Demolition workers Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, and Chris Huxtable, 34, from Swansea, have been missing since the disaster in Oxfordshire on February 23.

Site owner RWE Npower said, since the partial collapse of the power plant, during a demolition project, its priority has been to recover the three men, trapped underneath the 20,000 tonnes of rubble, as quickly as possible.

But rescue work was halted on May 16 when contractors reached a 50-metre exclusion zone and the company said it had come to a point where it was too dangerous to continue searching.

Since then an RWE spokeswoman said the firm had been developing two recovery options with demolition experts; as well as clearing material from the base of the remaining part of building and using laser scanning techniques to build up a 3D picture of the structure.

She said: "The conditions caused by the collapse are unprecedented at this scale in the UK.

"Given these extraordinary circumstances, and in order to minimise the risk of any further incidents, it is necessary to bring down the remaining structure to be able to continue the recovery of the men.

"We have a clear recovery plan in place which has been aligned with all agencies involved and have already completed several stages of it."

The two options being considered include using remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to place demolition charges at the base of the structure, or the traditional method of using people to go in and place the charges instead.

RWE said using ROVs is 'preferable since it limits the risk to life' and that the second option of using people to go underneath 'carries inherent risks to life' because the structure cannot be proven to be stable.

The company said it is 'essential' the 'highly complex' demolition is planned meticulously.

A spokeswoman added: "We have been progressing both options with our contractors. The 'ROV' option is the preferred route, with the traditional method being prepared as a back-up, should the robotic option not prove reliable.

"We have now received the detailed design for the robotic demolition option and are reviewing it together with independent experts this week before it is submitted to the Health and Safety Exedcutive.

"We understand that the time taken to recover the families' loved ones is deeply upsetting. We are in close contact with them, providing information and regular updates.

"Our priority remains the recovery of the missing men and we are doing everything that is within our power to ensure it is progressed as fast and safely as possible."

A date for the demolition is yet to be established.

Keith Cundall,from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing widows, Gail Cresswell and Adele Shaw, said: "While the proposed plan of action for recovering Ken and John has been welcomed by the families we are supporting, there is yet to be a clear indication of when this will take place.

"The lives of the families we represent have been changed forever by the delays in recovering their loved ones and the current situation continues to cause them an unbelievable amount of distress.

"They want their husbands recovered as quickly and carefully as possible as they are currently living under a cloud of uncertainty that has been in place for more than four months."

Calling for a 'definite timetable' from RWE for the next phase, Mr Cundall said the families are keen to understand the events leading to the accident and that Irwin Mitchell are seeking to work with authorities as they begin their own investigation into the disaster.