Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Guard of honour for firefighters

The guard of honour for the Warwickshire firefighters

About 200 firefighters have formed a guard of honour as the bodies of three of their colleagues were brought out from the wreckage of a warehouse.

Warwickshire fire crews and family members led the tribute in Atherstone-on-Stour, attended by firefighters from around the country.

The bodies of Darren Yates-Badley, Ashley Stephens and John Averis were found earlier after a four-day search.

A fourth firefighter, Ian Reid, died in hospital on Friday.

Those paying tribute lined the roadside outside the vegetable packing warehouse.

About 30 family members joined emergency service staff for the silent tribute late on Tuesday.

Global tributes

Also there were members of the Women's Royal Volunteer Service, ambulance staff and police who stood side by side with fire crews as the bodies were driven away from the site in a black Vauxhall van, flanked by two police outriders.

Clockwise from top left: Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid, John Averis
Three of the firefighters were in their 20s and one was 44

Speaking shortly after the bodies were removed, Warwickshire's county fire officer William Brown said tributes to the firefighters had arrived from around the world.

He said: "We've now got all four colleagues who we've lost in this tragic incident.

"Our hearts and our minds and our thoughts are with the families and once again we offer them our condolences at this very sad time for them.

"This fire will be marked forever in Warwickshire - today we have our flags at half mast.

"Tributes are arriving from all over the world as people acknowledge the grief that is being felt here."

He added: "The fire and rescue service in Warwickshire and nationally will take a long time to recover from this event."

Police investigation

Mr Brown also commended the firefighters involved in the "very difficult" search for their colleagues and all those who assisted them.

There are 140 police personnel now working on the investigation into the cause of the blaze, which is still being treated as suspicious.

Chief Superintendent Ken Lawrence, who is leading the police inquiry, said a special incident room had been set up at Warwick police station.

He said up to 200 firefighters who attended the incident would be questioned.

A total of 160 warehouse employees have already been interviewed.

Mr Reid, 44 was based at Rugby and Stratford, while John Averis, 27, was at Stratford fire station.

Mr Yates-Badley, 24 and Mr Stephens, 20, were both based at Alcester fire station.

The search for their bodies in the warehouse had been hampered by winds affecting the unsafe building.

Nine specialist search and rescue teams from around the country took part in the search.

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