A WIDOW is suing her husband’s employer over the gas explosion that killed him. Jennifer Herd is taking action against Ward Brothers plant hire of Langley Moor, Durham, on behalf of herself and her year-old daughter Ella, whom Andrew Herd never saw.
Her husband, 33, a welder, was killed when oxyacetylene cylinders in the back of his van exploded shortly after he left home in Mill Race, Wolsingham, County Durham, early on May 26 last year.
The Health and Safety Executive is considering prosecuting the firm. An inquest jury last week returned a verdict of accidental death on expectant father Mr Herd.
He was driving to work at Ward Bros when the explosion occurred, causing extensive damage to shops and homes in Wolsingham town centre.
Coroner Andrew Tweddle directed the jury at the Darlington inquest to return a verdict of accidental death.
He said he had attended the scene on the day of the incident and likened what he saw to “a terrorist outrage”.
The coroner said he would write to the relevant authorities to recommend the transportation of volatile substances such as acetylene be addressed.
HM principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive Richard Bulmer said yesterday: “We have conducted our own health and safety at work investigation and have been assisting the coroner at this inquest.
“We will now finalise our report in the light of the inquest and we will then be considering whether or not health and safety charges should be laid.”
The inquest had heard Mr Herd’s van had not been modified to meet ventilation guidelines, but that there was no legal requirement for these guidelines to be met.
Mr Bulmer said: “We put out an alert last year following this tragic death, stating that acetylene bottles are best carried in open-topped vehicles. If an enclosed vehicle is used, it should have adequate ventilation.”
John Brown, a solicitor representing Mrs Herd, said: “Mr Herd’s family wait for a decision from the Health and Safety Executive as to whether or not Ward Brothers will face criminal proceedings.
“Mrs Herd will be instituting civil proceedings against Ward Brothers Ltd on behalf of not only herself, but also her daughter, and Mrs Herd wishes to thank everyone for their kindness and sympathy.”
Ward Bros declined to comment.