Didcot Power Station: Could Be Months Until Bodies Found

3 March 2016, 19:05 | Updated: 3 March 2016, 19:08

Didcot Power Station rubble

One person died, three were trapped under the rubble and are now assumed dead and two were seriously injured when part of a building at Didcot Power Station Collapsed.

On Tuesday the 23rd of February at around 4pm, part of a building which was being prepared for demolition collapsed at Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire.

Emergency crews say it could now be months before we find out what happened to the three people missing in the rubble of the collapsed building.

This is how the disaster unfolded:

Emergency services were called at 4pm to the site in south Oxfordshire amid reports of an explosion but it was later confirmed an old boiler house which was being prepared for demolition after sitting derelict for around three years had partially collapsed.

Didcot Power station dust

Information soon emerged that one person had died in the collapse, five had been injured - two seriously - and three were missing.

First pic from didcot power station

During the night, fire crews along with search and rescue specalists and sniffer dogs were sent in to look for signs of life from the three who were missing. 

Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service gave updates on the situation in to the night.


Thames Valley Police Tuesday 23rd February: 

A major incident has been declared at Didcot Power Station following the partial collapse of a building.

Emergency services were called to Didcot A Power Station at about 4pm today (23/2).

There was a partial collapse of a large building, which is approximately 300m long and ten storeys high.

The building was due to be demolished in the coming months.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has command of the incident, supported by South Central Ambulance Service and Thames Valley Police.

Sadly, it has been confirmed that one person died during the incident.

Meanwhile, four people have been taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford; two with serious injuries, two with minor injuries.

There are three people reported missing on site at this time.

More than 40 people were treated at the scene for dust inhalation, and have since been discharged.

The Health and Safety Executive has been informed and will conduct an investigation, which will be supported by Thames Valley Police.

There is currently a 100m cordon in place, however there are no public road closures at this time.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis said: “It is with great sadness that I have to confirm one person has died during this incident. Our priority now is to find the three missing people.

“The search will be a considerable undertaken due to the instability of the site. We expect the search will continue through the night and possibly into the coming days.

“There is Specialist Rescue and Command Support Units, and Urban Search and Rescue Units from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and West Midlands at the scene, including search dogs. The fire service is being supported by South Central Ambulance Service and Thames Valley Police.

“Dust from the collapse covered a considerable area but I would like to reassure the public there were no hazardous materials within the building, but we would advise local residents to remain inside, keeping doors and windows closed.

“Anyone concerned about dust inhalation should call NHS on 111.

“I would like to confirm that this is not believed to be a terrorist incident.”

There are two air ambulances, four specialist Hazardous Area Response Team vehicles and six ambulances at the scene.


Statement from RWE Generation UK

We can confirm that shortly after 4pm this afternoon part of the Boiler House at our former Didcot A Power Station site in Oxfordshire collapsed while an external demolition contractor was working in it.

It is with great sadness that we understand that there has been one fatality, four people have been taken to hospital and 3 people are currently missing and unaccounted for.

Our thoughts are with the families of all those involved in this tragedy. We will provide updates as we receive them.

We are working with the emergency services who are currently on site to understand the cause of this collapse.

Didcot power station collapse Heli view

The following day Thames Valley Police said:

Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton from Thames Valley Police:

“Yesterday at just after 4pm there was a partial collapse of the disused Didcot A Power Station resulting in the tragic death of a member of the demolition team and injuries to a further five people. Overnight, Fire and Rescue have been searching the scene for three missing people.

“The sincere thoughts of all the emergency services, including Fire and Rescue, Police and South Central Ambulance Service are with the families of all those involved. This is a tragic event and we are doing all we can to support the families of those affected and establish the facts that led up to this incident.

“We are now working closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)  inspectors to understand the cause of the incident. The priority at this time is that the recovery of the bodies is undertaken safely and that any evidence that will assist in understanding the cause of the incident is recorded.”

Chief Fire Officer Dave Etheridge from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“We have just spoken with the police to the families who are obviously distraught.

“We have explained that we have not picked up any signs of life from our listening devices.

“But we are doing everything we can to locate their loved ones, regardless of whether they are still alive or not.

“The extent of this incident, the nature of the collapse and the location where the missing people were working means that it is highly unlikely the three missing people are still alive. We have tried the construction site radios and had no response and we see this as significant.

“The rescue teams are working through the debris, with their safety being my first consideration.However everything we are doing remains consistent with a rescue operation.

“The rescue teams are working under very difficult circumstances, with a structure that is unsafe and with unstable piles of materials from the collapsed building.

“We are currently using sniffer dogs, listening devices, drones and we are looking at the possibility of using remote controlled probes to access dangerous parts of the site. This enables us to cover areas that are too risky for rescue teams to go themselves.

“We have called on our colleagues in Cheshire Fire & Rescue, Merseyside Fire & Rescue and the demolition company which supported Cheshire Fire & Rescue that supported the search following the fire at Bosley Mill fire last year to share any learnings from that incident.

“I am very grateful for all their professional help and advice we have received from other places.

“Progress has been slow, but we are making progress working through the debris. We anticipate that this exercise is going to be prolonged and difficult. People need to be prepared for this operation taking several days, possibly several weeks.

“I have given a personal undertaking to the families that we will do everything we can to recover their loved ones and that is what we are trying to do. My heart goes out to them as they wait for news.”

Didcot flowers


We can now confirm that the families of the three missing people have visited the site, supported by Family Liaison Officers from Thames Valley Police.

The families had the opportunity to speak to Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service about the search operation.

Chief Fire Officer Dave Etheridge, Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “We remain committed and determined to return the missing people to their families, and work continues overnight.

“We are working with structural engineers and demolition experts to establish a safe way of working on site. In addition the military is supporting the search for the missing people. They will be using a mini remote control vehicle to assist with the search for survivors at the site.

This provides us with enhanced capability and their equipment and expertise will be invaluable.”

Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “We are continuing to work with the Health and Safety Executive and all the emergency services to understand the cause of this incident.”

South Central Ambulance Service remains on site to deal with any recovered casualties.

South Oxfordshire District Council Environmental Health has confirmed there are no air quality issues associated with the dust cloud that formed yesterday.

Pictured Michael Collings:

Didcot Michael Collings

Michael Collings was identified as the person who was confirmed dead in the collapse. His family paid tribute:

Mike was a much loved husband, father, granddad, son, brother and friend. He had a huge enthusiasm for life and will be remembered for his kind and friendly nature. He loved everyone and everyone loved him.

Thank you to everyone who has sent their condolences and to Coleman & Company and the emergency services for their support.

We ask that our privacy is respected at this terrible time.

Pictured: Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Nathan Travis:

Didcot Travis

Thames Valley Police (Friday 26th Feb): 

Over the weekend the multi-agency operation will continue at Didcot A Power Station. We continue to work with structural engineers and demolition experts.

The partially collapsed building remains unstable making this a complex operation. The priority remains to return the missing people to their families whilst ensuring the safety of all those on site. Local residents of Didcot may wish to consider keeping their doors and windows closed to avoid dust should there be any further collapse of the building.

The Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Nathan Travis, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Services said: “We continue to work with Thames Valley Police to keep families informed of our progress on the site. This will continue through the weekend. Our priority remains to recover those missing. The site remains extremely unstable and so the safety of the teams working on site has to be our first consideration.

“We are working very closely with structural experts on the site. We continue to anticipate that this exercise will be prolonged and difficult. We extend our deepest sympathies to the man who has died and our thoughts remain with the families of those missing.

“I would like to reassure the public there were no hazardous materials within the building.”

Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable, Scott Chilton, said: “I cannot imagine what this must be like for the families of the three missing people. The police are continuing to do everything we can to recover their loved ones and will continue to support the family during this terrible time.”

South Central Ambulance Service remains on site to deal with any recovered casualties.

Didcot cordon 1

On Thursday 3rd March there was an update on the situation at Didcot.

It will take rescuers many weeks, if not months to reach the bodies of three people trapped under the collapsed Didcot Power Station, police said.
Giving an update on recovery work at the scene in Oxfordshire, Thames Valley Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton said the partially collapsed structure is still ``unsafe'' and that they are seeking ``specialist advice'' on how to progress.
``It will take many weeks and, in reality, many months before we will be able to get access to those trapped,'' he said.
``This is a complex process and will take some time.''
Didcot Power Station rubble
The building collapsed at 4pm last Tuesday while workers were preparing it for demolition, killing worker Mike Collings and trapping three others inside the rubble.
Five people were injured and more than 47 others were treated for dust inhalation.
Emergency services and rescue workers have said it is ``highly unlikely'' that those trapped will be found alive.
Peter Baker, the chief inspector of construction at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said they are conducting the joint investigation with the police under the work-related deaths protocol.
He said: ``Everyone is working very hard to identify the causes as quickly as possible, and also to see what lessons can be learnt to make sure we can avoid a tragedy such as this in future.''
Mr Baker said the HSE have assembled a specialist team with construction and demolition experience and that they will remain on site to ``ensure that the health and safety risks'' from the next phase of the power station demolition are ``being effectively controlled''.
Mr Chilton said the recovery of the bodies will be a ``complex and difficult engineering operation'' - and that as of yet it has not been ``appropriate or safe'' to dismantle any of the wreckage.
He added: ``What is incredibly important is that the family are kept up to date with the progress of the investigation and the specialist techniques we are using to try and get access to the persons that are trapped.''
So far the operation to try and locate the missing individuals has involved the use of sniffer dogs, listening devices and drones, and emergency services were considering deploying remote control probes to access the dangerous parts of the site.
Mr Chilton said that the purpose of the drones and robots was to see if it was safe to get access and to take pictures for the specialists to use when making an informed view of how they would get to those trapped.
He told reporters at the scene that they have been taking statements from workers who witnessed the collapse to try and figure out where the missing were.
Paying tribute to the families affected, Mr Chilton said: ``This is an incredibly difficult time for them, they have suffered a tremendous loss and it will take some time for them to receive closure on this.
``I would like to thank them for their sensitivity, understanding and patience for the traumatic events that happened last week.''
The exact cause of the collapse is still unknown and Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive are working to identify the cause as rescue teams comb through the rubble pile, which is about 30ft high.