Man killed in factory explosion is named

A FACTORY worker who died in a blast which left his best friend fighting for life was today named by police.

Michael Whinfrey from Wickersley died in an industrial explosion at the Sterecycle site on Sheffield Road, Rotherham.

The 42-year-old was airlifted to Leeds General Hospital following yesterday's explosion but died at 5.45pm.

Michael leaves a widow and three daughters.

You can leave a tribute to Michael in our online book of condolence, click here

His best friend Peter Lindon Davis was also injured and remains at the Northern General Hospital where his condition is serious but stable.

He is being treated for "potentially life-changing, head and body injuries."

The 51-year-old is from Hoyland Common in Barnsley.

The men are understood to have become trapped when a pressure vessel blew up in the Sterecycle plant on Sheffield Road, between Tinsley and Templeborough.

The deafening blast ripped a large hole in the wall of the building and sent waste and debris spewing onto the road and nearby cars. One witness said he'd "never heard anything like it".

A Sterecycle spokeswoman said the explosion happened at around 2.40pm yesterday, and was caused by a sudden loss of pressure after a vessel used to treat waste failed.

She said: "The company initiated its emergency procedures immediately and medical attention was provided as quickly as possible.

"There was some damage to the side of the building housing the pressure vessels.

"Two of the site operators were seriously injured."

Police set up a cordon to direct motorists away from Sheffield Road, while a JCB cleared debris from the highway.

Craig Ball, aged 51, of Ferrars Road, Tinsley, was passing the area at the time of the blast after walking a guard-dog belonging to nearby freight company Newall Wright Transport.

"The explosion was absolutely massive," he said. "I've never heard anything like it - if I'd been any closer I wouldn't be here now. It blew a hole in the wall, and waste went all over the road. It was a complete mess.

"All the rubbish went onto the car park, and smashed some of the car windows," Craig added. "We don't know if there's been a backdraft or something like that, but it just blew up."

Mum-of-one Savanna Lee, 19, who lives near the plant on Sheffield Road, said: "I didn't hear the explosion but the ambulance helicopter was flying over the house quite low, and then went straight over to the factory."

A worker at a nearby engineering firm told The Star: "We were all inside working at the time, and I came out just after the explosion happened. There was rubbish all over the road.

"I've heard it's a pressure malfunction, and it's exploded. It sounds like a tragic accident."

Sterecycle chief executive Tom Shields said: "We clearly regret this incident and have advised the Health and Safety Executive.

"Our immediate priority is for the welfare of our employees who have been injured.

Thereafter we will urgently investigate the causes of the incident and ensure all necessary actions are taken."

He said operations at the plant would be suspended until a full investigation into the cause of the blast has been carried out.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service sent two ambulances, a doctor, a clinical team, a hazardous area response team, and a helicopter. Over 20 firefighters were at the scene, with the last crew leaving just after 4pm.

This morning Sheffield Road was still closed from the junction with Bessemer Way at Ickles and Ferrars Road, Tinsley.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said police officers and Health and Safety Executive staff were at the scene last night investigating the cause.

Just a month ago energy minister Charles Hendry praised Sterecycle as "innovative pioneers" during a visit to the Templeborough site.

The firm uses giant pressurised ovens to turn household waste into a fibre that can be used as compost or a fuel source, and sterilises metal and glass for recycling.

The system has been praised for converting rubbish into a form in which 70 per cent can be recycled.

Sterecycle, which employs 41 people in Templeborough, announced in 2009 plans to invest 10 million in the plant to increase its capacity to 240,000 tonnes of waste a year, which it said would create 16 more jobs this year.

The energy minister, speaking in Templeborough in December, said: "The less waste we send to landfill, the better. Pioneers like the people here at Sterecycle should be commended for developing such an innovative solution to what we do with our waste."

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