Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Blast death fireman's film shown

Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge
Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge died in the explosion

Video footage of a blaze at a fireworks depot filmed by a firefighter moments before he was killed in an explosion has been shown to a jury.

Flames and smoke engulfed Festival Fireworks UK Ltd at Marlie Farm in East Sussex in images caught by Brian Wembridge on 3 December 2006.

Mr Wembridge, 63, and fellow firefighter Geoff Wicker, 49, died in the blast at Marlie Farm, near Lewes.

Company boss Martin Winter, 52, and his son Nathan, 25, deny manslaughter.

Not guilty pleas have also been entered on behalf of Mr Winter's company, now known as Alpha Fireworks Ltd, which faces two counts of breaching health and safety legislation.

'Vast fireball'

The footage started by focusing on the entrance to Marlie Farm, in Shortgate, as the fire first took hold, with fireworks popping and sirens sounding above the chaos.

In the final moments, Mr Wembridge trained the camera on a metal container filled with fireworks as flames enveloped it before the screen suddenly went blank.

A member of the emergency services at the scene described a hissing and sucking sound followed by a vast fireball before the massive fatal explosion, Lewes Crown Court was told.

Fire support officer Mr Wembridge's role included taking pictures at fire scenes for the media.

Nathan and Martin Winter
Nathan Winter and his father Martin each deny manslaughter

He and Mr Wicker were both long-serving members of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

Some 20 other people, mostly police and fire officers, were injured in the blast, which sent fragments of the container, which was illegally filled with fireworks, far and wide.

The court was told that Festival Fireworks UK Ltd was found to be in breach of its licence at another of its sites a year before the explosion.

Insurers for the company found it was storing the most dangerous categories of fireworks at Upper Lodge Farm and urged bosses to remove them.

Prosecutor Richard Matthews said the insurers wrote to Martin Winter in 2005 about the fireworks stored at Upper Lodge Farm, urging him to address the matter urgently.

It was suggested that Mr Winter remove the fireworks and he replied saying he had sold them to a customer.

The trial continues.

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'Negligence' led to depot deaths
09 Nov 09 |  Sussex
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