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EDITIONS
Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 10:30 GMT
Blast victims recall disaster
The explosion tore apart blast furnace no.5
The explosion tore apart blast furnace no.5
Victims of the Corus steel blast in Port Talbot have been recalling their harrowing experiences on the first anniversary of the disaster.

Three men died and a dozen were injured when number five furnace exploded at 1714GMT.

The community was united in grief for the victims and prayers for those badly injured and fighting for life at Morriston Hospital's special burns unit in Swansea.

On Friday, at the exact time of the blast, colleagues of the victims, their families and members of the community observed a minute's silence.


Unless you have been through something like this, you cannot appreciate what it does to you

Ivor Radford, victim's brother

The blast - the worst accident in the steel industry since 1975 - claimed the lives Stephen Galsworthy, who was 25, Andrew Hutin, 20, and Len Radford, 53.

Mr Radford's brother Ivor recalled hearing of the accident on the radio - knowing his brother would be in work - and said he refused to think the worst had happened.

Len Radford: Blast victim
Len Radford: Blast victim

"I decided to ring the number that was given out on the television for families of victims and I was sent round in circles a few times before they sent me to Morriston.

"We were not allowed to see him straight away. When we did and saw him in such a state it was not very nice. He lived for four days and we were advised he would never recover from his accident.

"We had to decide whether rather to prolong the agony to switch off the life-support machine, which myself and my sisters did. We were there to watch him die.

"Unless you have been through something like this, you cannot appreciate what it does to you."

Survivor Lee Jones was left badly burned and with a broken back and he also spent the anniversary recalling his thoughts as the furnace exploded.

Lee Jones, blast survivor
Lee Jones: Harrowing memories

"I was side on to the furnace, I was lifted off my feet blown sideways.

"At the time I was expecting a rush of molten metal across the floor. That went through my mind and thoughts of my family. It was the most horrendous experience of my life."

On Friday, flags were being flown at half mast and at 1700GMT, services were held at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, where the injured were treated, and at St Theodore's Church in Port Talbot, where funeral services were held for those who died.

Port Talbot steelworks
An inquiry into the blast has been completed

Parish priest Father Colin Amos said: "There has been much anguish over what should be done to mark this emotional and sad occasion.

"Opening the church will allow everyone to remember in their own way, with no obligation."

Corus has already admitted civil liability for the explosion and now faces an estimated 1m compensation payout.

Interim payments to relatives of the victims have already been made.

There were plans to create a memorial garden to remember those who were killed but this has been shelved.

Rebuilt

Families of those who died said they did not want to visit it and they have said they will not visit the plant until after the investigation into the explosion is completed.

An investigation into the blast by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is not due to be completed until early next year.

Preliminary findings have shown the blast may have been caused by water in the works' number five furnace.

A decision on any prosecutions will be taken after the completion of the inquiry.

The damaged furnace at Port Talbot is being rebuilt at a cost of 75m and production is expected to begin again early next year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales' Gilbert John
"Today in Port Talbot it's going to be a day of remembrance."
Blast victim Len Radford's brother, Ivor
"We had to decide there and then, rather than prolong the agony and suffering, to switch off the life-support."
BBC Wales' Rebecca John
"The anniversary is a time to pause to reflect on the tragedy"
Steelworks Blast

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