Avonmouth blast victim’s grieving wife says son 'would be dead too' but had day off – and husband, 63, was set to retire

THE grieving wife of a 63-year-old man killed when a chemical tank exploded today revealed her son would have been dead too – but had the day off.

Brian Vickery was one of four victims killed when the blast unfolded at the Wessex Water site in Avonmouth, near Bristol, on Thursday morning.

It was reported one of the victims was thrown 500ft after the explosion with sniffer dogs having to be called in to search for bodies as cops declared a major incident.

Speaking today, the wife of Brian, Jane, paid tribute to her husband – who was just to retire after more than four decades of service.

Speaking from her home in Celevdon, Somerset, she said: ''Brian had worked there for 42 years.

"Our son works there but had a day off yesterday.

"If he had been there he'd be dead too."

Police today said the explosion happened in a silo that holds treated biosolids before it is recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner.

Tributes have today started to flow in for the four men killed in the horror.

One family friend today said: "We have lost the most loving, giving and caring friend, father brother and son one could ever have."

And one work pal today told The Sun Online: "We are one big family, and when something so devastating happens to your colleagues it affects us all.

"We all expect to go to work each day and return home to our families. This effects not only our emotions but makes you realise just how it could have happened to any of us.

"My heart goes out to their families and loved ones, and my prayers are with them all."


Another added the group were "great blokes".

One colleague wrote on social media: "My thoughts are also with the families of those involved. I had the pleasure of working with one of the chaps. Great guy. Very sad news indeed."

The explosion, involving one of the chemical tanks at the sewage processing plant, was described as like "a bomb".

An eyewitness said of the victims: "They didn’t stand a chance.”

And a source today told The Times: "A silo blew up as the men were working on it.

"They have been looking for the bodies and found one 150 metres away in a lake. There are four dead and one injured who could walk away from the scene.”

It's understood the victims included three Wessex Water employees and one contractor.

One man's body was found in the lake while the other three victims were reportedly found close to the wrecked chemical tank.

A fifth person involved in the blast did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Emergency services raced to the plant in Kings Weston Lane at 11.20am after the blast 'rattled windows' of businesses half a mile away.

One eyewitness, who works nearby, said: “I thought a bomb had gone off. It was terrifying.

“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those guys working on the tank. They didn’t stand a chance."

Kieran Jenkins, who works nearby, added he saw people “running” from the site.

He said: “I heard a bang, we didn’t know what was going on.

“We were inside the warehouse, the whole warehouse was shaking."

Another witness heard "a sort of a boom and echo and then it just went quiet."

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those guys working on the tank.

Following Thursday's tragedy, Boris Johnson tweeted: "Deeply saddened to learn that four people have lost their lives in the water works explosion in Avonmouth.

"Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.

"Thank you to the emergency services who attended the scene."

Fire crews were among the emergency response while a second helicopter was reportedly searching overhead for the victims.

Heat-seeking cameras and sniffer dogs were also called in to search for survivors.

Specialist teams from as far away as Devon were called to search the site after the blast buckled the roof of the silo.

It was initially feared others were missing in the wreckage but it is not believed there will be any further casualties.

Police have launched a probe with agencies including the Health and Safety Executive. They say the incident isn't terror-related.

People working nearby have told of the moment they heard the blast.

One person working around half a mile away said: "All our windows rattled."

Another said: "My better half is working in Avonmouth and their entire building rumbled and shook from it."

And another man who was nearby said: "I was at work when the blast in happened.

"We were only about 900 metres as the crow flies across some open land.

"Shockwave shook the building, the shutter door made the strangest noise I've ever heard."

In an update today, Chief Inspector Mark Runacres, of Avon and Somerset Police, said a thorough investigation would be conducted.

He said: "The explosion happened in a silo that holds treated biosolids before it is recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner.

"I can reassure people living in the nearby area that there is not believed to be any ongoing public safety concerns following today’s events."

Wessex Water Chief Executive Colin Skellett said: “We are absolutely devastated that the tragic incident at our site earlier has resulted in four fatalities.

“Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of those involved. We are working with the Health and Safety Executive to understand what happened and why.”

Officials at Bristol City Council said: "We would like to reassure the public there is not believed to be any ongoing public safety concerns following the major incident at Wessex Water’s Bristol water recycling centre in Avonmouth."

The site is close to the docks and the Avonmouth container terminal.

Bristol MP Darren Jones said it's the second serious incident in Avonmouth "in as many weeks" after firefighters tackled a 20,000 tonne metal recycling plant blaze.

"Once our emergency services have resolved this incident and helped any injured workers, I’ll be calling on the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive and others to ensure lessons are being learnt for the future," he said.

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