Search for Rotherham Men at Didcot 'On Hold'

24 May 2016, 15:18 | Updated: 24 May 2016, 15:20

Work to recover the bodies of three men killed in the Didcot power station collapse has been halted because contractors have reached a 50-metre exclusion zone.

They have been picking through the wreckage of the unstable boiler house in Oxfordshire but site owner RWE npower says they are at a point where it is too dangerous to continue searching.

A plan is being drawn up so the recovery operation can restart "as quickly and as safely as possible'', a spokesman said.

The aim is to find demolition workers Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and Chris Huxtable, from Swansea, who have been missing since the disaster on February 23.

A spokesman said: "Our contractors have now reached the 50-metre safety exclusion zone, which is in place as the remainder of the structure is currently considered unstable. Sadly, this means that, until the remaining standing structure can be safely brought down, we have restricted access to the recovery area.

"We understand that the time it is taking to recover these men is deeply distressing for their families, and we are in contact with them. Our absolute priority is to recover their loved ones as quickly and as safely as possible.''

A controlled explosion may be used to bring the rest of the building down before a renewed recovery operation.

The decommissioned Didcot A plant closed in 2013 and demolition work was taking place when it collapsed.

The family of Mr Huxtable, 34, spoke of their distress at not being able to lay him to rest.

His mother Sandra Huxtable told Sky News: "You are on hold every minute of your life because you are waiting for that phone call to say they have found Chris, but now we will not have that phone call. Give them some dignity and get these men out. There will be nothing left of them.''

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokesman said: "It is the responsibility of RWE and their contractors to assess and control the risks associated with work within the current exclusion zone and the explosive demolition of the remaining structure at Didcot A.

"When HSE receives the RWE safety assessments and plans for this work, it will consider the content carefully and advise RWE and the other agencies involved in the recovery operation on the health and safety aspects of the wider plan required for the demolition of the building.''