Transco fined £15m for blast that killed family of four

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The Independent Online

Andrew Findlay, 34, his wife, Janette, 37, and their children, Stacey, 13, and Daryl, 11, died in the early-morning blast that ripped through their bungalow in Lanarkshire a few daysbefore Christmas in 1999.

Transco was accused of failing to maintain the iron gas main that ran through the Findlays' garden in Larkhall. It was extensively corroded and a leak from it caused the explosion. A jury at the High Court unanimously convicted Transco of breaching health and safety laws.

The case against the company centred on maintenance, repair and record-keeping procedures. It had believed that the iron main was made from more durable polyethylene.

An examination after the tragedy found that the gas main near the Findlays' house had 19 holes; one was big enough for a man to crawl through.

Relatives of the Findlay family yesterday said they were pleased that "Drew, Janette, Stacey and Daryl can now rest in peace". Their statement added: "The verdict does not change the fact that our two families will never be the same. However, we take some small comfort from the hope this verdict brings, that no other family should ever suffer as we have."

The trial, which began on 11 February this year, was one of the longest-running in Scottish legal history, cost the taxpayer millions of pounds and involved more than 200 witnesses.

Judge Lord Carloway said the fine, which is more than seven times the previous record imposed by a British court and 15 times the record imposed by a court in Scotland, was not intended as act of revenge.

Transco's lack of pragmatic action on the corroded pipes had been a "plain failure to ensure public safety", he said, adding that an attempt by the firm, which made an operating profit of £390m to March this year, to blame the explosion on an internal leak, for which it would have had no responsibility, showed it had "little or no remorse".

Transco plc, which is no longer responsible for Scotland's gas supply network after selling out to Scotia Gas Networks, which is part of Scottish and Southern Energy, said that it was disappointed with the verdict and would be considering "whether or not to take any further action".