East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will never forget colleagues Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge, who lost their lives at the Marlie Farm fatal fire and explosion in December 2006.
We have been informed that the insurers have discontinued the appeal in respects to the civil compensation case brought against the Service by their families and by other injured firefighters.
Chairman of East Sussex Fire Authority Phil Howson said:
“The decision to appeal the original July 2013 ruling was made by our insurers and we were bound by that decision. We hope that now the settlement of the individual claims can be progressed by the insurers and that this development will now draw this matter to a conclusion for all concerned.”
Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Des Prichard said:
“Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge were well-respected colleagues and are still missed by those who knew them. We continue to remember their dedication to serving our community.
We have learnt lessons from what happened at Marlie Farm. A full investigation took place immediately afterwards and we have brought in many changes not only to the way we work, but to the way fire services across the UK and internationally work. We remain committed to ensuring our firefighters are as safe as they can possible be when they are called out to emergencies.”
The legal process has taken a long time in part due to the criminal trial of a father and son who ran Marlie Farm. Martin and Nathan Winter were jailed for manslaughter.
Two long-serving members of ESFRS, Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge, lost their lives while attending the incident at Shortgate near Lewes, on December 3rd 2006.
In December 2009, a father and son were convicted of their manslaughter. Martin Winter, owner of Festival Fireworks UK Ltd, was sentenced to seven years at Lewes Crown Court. His son Nathan was sentenced to five years (reduced to four years on appeal in 2010). No criminal charges were brought against any member of the ESFRS.
The court heard Martin Winter was "grossly negligent" as he knew an unlicensed metal container packed with fireworks could explode if a blaze broke out. As the Winters’ insurance was invalid because of the illegal storage of fireworks at Marlie Farm, victims of the tragedy were forced to seek compensation elsewhere.
A civil case, involving East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s insurers Zurich, began at the High Court in London in February 2013.