16-Year-Old Boy Among 4 Dead in Explosion at UK Wastewater Plant

December 4, 2020 Updated: December 4, 2020

A 16-year-old boy was among four people killed in an explosion on Thursday at a wastewater plant near Bristol in southern England, local police confirmed on Friday.

The blast took place on Thursday morning at Wessex Water’s Bristol water recycling centre in Avonmouth, a port in the outer suburb of Bristol.

Formal identification has not taken place, but police said the individuals believed to have died were Michael James, 64; Brian Vickery, 63; Raymond White, 57; and Luke Wheaton, 16.

Avonmouth blast
A police officer staffs a cordon with a damaged silo seen in the background at a waste water treatment plant in Avonmouth, near Bristol in southwest England, on Dec. 4, 2020, after an explosion the previous day. (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

A fifth person who was injured is not in life-threatening conditions and has already returned home.

The BBC reported that Mr. James was a contractor working at the site, while Mr. Vickery and Mr. White were employees of Wessex Water and Luke Wheaton was an apprentice at the firm.

Luke’s former school, Bradley Stoke Community School, said on Twitter: “We were shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic passing of our former student Luke Wheaton yesterday in the Avonmouth tragedy. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

There has been an outpouring of sympathy and condolences from the region and nationally.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was “deeply saddened to learn that four people have lost their lives” and “our hearts go out to the victims and their families.”

“This has already been such a challenging year, and this news of further loss of life is another terrible blow,” said Bristol City Mayor Marvin Rees. “As a city we will mourn for them.”

Police said an investigation has been launched into the causes of the explosion, which is likely to be ongoing for some time.

Mark Runacres, chief inspector of Avon and Somerset Police, said on Thursday that it was not being treated as a terror-related incident.

“The explosion happened in a silo that holds treated biosolids before it is recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner,” he said.