Man tells of illegal vodka factory blast in Lincolnshire

 

A man who survived a blast at a factory where illegal vodka was being
made has said he is still having treatment for his injuries almost a
year later following an inquest into his colleagues' deaths today.

Lithuanian national Rytas Gecas, 25, of Peterborough, suffered extensive burns in the incident at the industrial unit on Broadfield Lane, Boston, Lincolnshire, on July 13 last year.

His five Lithuanian-born colleagues, Erlandas Duzinskas, 19, Vaidas Krupenkinas, 39, Laimutis Simkus, 32, Ovidijus Mejeris, 26, and Ricardus Gecas, 24, all died from the toxic fumes in the blast.

Maureen Taylor, coroner for Boston and Spalding, recorded a verdict of accidental death into the five deaths.

The cause of death was given as inhalation of fire fumes.

Lincolnshire Police are still investigating how the blaze started but the inquest at Spalding Magistrates' Court heard that the most likely cause was a cigarette, the spark from which may have caused toxic vapours which had built up in the unit to ignite.

Ian Woods, deputy divisional officer from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service, told the hearing that smoking materials and debris were found in significant quantities near the seat of the fire.

Mr Gecas, who gave evidence through an interpreter, said the men regularly smoked while they worked.

Mr Woods said the heat in the unit would have increased by several degrees following the blast and that anyone inhaling the smoke and vapours would have had a "rapid demise" within minutes.

No smoke alarms were fitted in the unit.

The inquest heard thick black smoke was pouring out of the building when ambulance crews arrived at the scene.

Witnesses described seeing a man running out of the building with his hair and clothes on fire.

Mr Gecas, who had been working at the factory for just two weeks putting tops on the bottles, was treated at the scene for severe burns before being taken to hospital.

The five others were pronounced dead at the scene after being overcome by the smoke and fumes inside the building.

High levels of alcohol were found in the bloodstreams of three of the victims - Krupenkinas, Mejeris and Simkus.

Krupenkinas and Simkus each had 143mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood while Mejeris had 106mg.

The UK drink-drive limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Recording her verdict after a short hearing this morning, Miss Taylor said: "Vapours arising from their illegal activities were easily flammable.

"But despite the dangers, they all smoked while working and did not consider the possible dangers although aware of them."

"I don't know how the fire started, whether it was from a cigarette, who smoked that cigarette, or where.

"The only certainty was that illegal activities were going on."

Speaking after the verdict today, Det Insp Lorraine Bradley, of Lincolnshire Police, said: "On the 13th of July last year five young men were killed and it has been a complex and difficult case trying to establish the circumstances leading up to their deaths.

"The industrial unit contained apparatus which was being used as a filtration plant for the production of illicit alcohol

"We believe this alcohol was being sold on as counterfeit vodka and bottling and labelling materials were also found at the scene.

"Over the subsequent months following the investigation a dedicated team of officers worked to try and identify whether any individual bore responsibility for what had happened.

"Extensive inquiries were made in Lincolnshire and in the Peterborough area where the victims were living.

"We worked closely with our colleagues in HM Customs and Trading Standards to examine the wider business of illicit alcohol production.

"In March this year the evidence gathered during the police investigation was reviewed in detail by a senior lawyer for the East Midlands Complex Case Unit who concluded that neither the cause of the explosion nor the identity of the person responsible could be established to a criminal standard.

"This means that Lincolnshire Police have been unable to charge anyone in connection with the five deaths.

"The events of last July were tragic and have shocked Boston town.

"It brought the production of illicit alcohol into focus and the community have worked with us supporting intelligence-led operations that disrupt the activities of those involved in this dangerous practice."

PA

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?