Firework factory owners to Appeal

24 March 2010, 13:51 | Updated: 24 March 2010, 14:02

The owner of an East Sussex fireworks company and his son who were jailed over the deaths of two firemen after a huge blast at their family-run firm are to appeal.

Martin Winter, 52, and his 25-year-old son Nathan Winter have lodged an appealagainst their sentence and conviction, officials at the Court of Appeal in London said.

Martin Winter was handed a seven-year jail term and his son was sentenced to five years after being convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence at Lewes Crown Court in December last year.

Their sentences followed the deaths of retained firefighter Geoff Wicker, 49, and support officer Brian Wembridge, 63, both long-serving members of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. The pair died after a massive explosion at the Winter family's Festival Fireworks UK site at Marlie Farm in Shortgate, near Lewes, on December 3, 2006.

During a five-week trial, jurors heard that Martin and Nathan Winter were ``grossly negligent'' through knowing an unlicensed metal container packed with fireworks could explode if a fire broke out.

Their firm, later called Alpha Fireworks, was convicted of two health and safety breaches in connection with the blast, which injured 20 others, mainly police and fire officers. It was fined #30,000.

It was while Nathan Winter was making preparations for a fireworks show in Eastbourne later on the day of the tragedy that the fatal sequence of events was triggered. He heard a crack as igniters flared up and soon fireworks were exploding and spreading to other areas of the site.

Firefighters from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service were called and the command passed upwards as more senior fire officers arrived.

The container was unlicensed for storage by Festival Fireworks. Jurors were told the potential for a huge blast if a blaze broke out was obvious to both Nathan and Martin Winter.

A date for an appeal hearing has not yet been set.