Firefighter's body found in warehouse wreckage

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The Independent Online

The body of one of three missing firefighters was located in a burned-out warehouse today.

Chief Superintendent Ken Lawrence, of Warwickshire Police, said one body was found early this morning.



Darren Yates-Badley, 24, Ashley Stephens, 20, and John Averis, 27, were unaccounted for following the blaze four days ago.



Another firefighter, Ian Reid, 44, was pulled out of the blaze at a vegetable packing warehouse in Atherstone on Stour but died later in hospital.









Chief Superintendent Lawrence said: "In the early hours of this morning, the urban search and rescue team have found what they believe to be one of the missing firefighters."

"The search continues for the missing two firefighters and is making good progress.



"There is a large team of detectives trying to establish exactly what happened last Friday."



Fire crews remain determined to return the firefighters still missing in the building to their families, said Glen Ranger, deputy county fire officer from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service.



Search teams from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue service have now entered the fifth day of the operation.



They have progressed between 20 and 30 metres into the rubble-strewn shell of the warehouse, and still have around 70 metres to go.



Up to 200 people are involved in the search operation at the scene in Atherstone On Stour, Warwickshire and 140 police personnel are working on the investigation.



Speaking from the scene today, Mr Ranger said: "We are into the fifth day of the operation and we are now certain that we have found one of the fire fighters who died as he was fighting this fire.



"Personnel across the country are thinking about the families of the missing fire fighters.



"We will not cease our operations until those fire fighters are back with their families."



Chief Superintendent Lawrence, leading the police investigation, said that a special incident room had been set up at Warwick Police Station for a team of detectives dedicated to the investigation.



The blaze is still being treated as suspicious.



Up to 200 firefighters who attended the incident of Friday night will be questioned by investigating officers, he said.



A total of 160 warehouse employees have already been spoken to.













Residents near the scene of the catastrophic blaze continued to lay flowers and cards today at the fire station where two of the firefighters worked.

The community has been shaken by the tragedy and the grieving process has only just begun, Warwickshire's chief fire officer William Brown said.



He said: "The impact of their loss on the community is unimaginable.



"The grieving has only just begun and will take a long time for us to recover and understand what has happened here."



Outside the fire station in Alcester, Warwickshire, locals have been leaving floral tributes and letters, as well as lighting candles for the four.



Ian Reid, 44, was pulled out of the blaze on Friday night but died later in hospital.



His three colleagues Darren Yates-Badley, 24, Ashley Stephens, 20, and John Averis, 27, were trapped inside the vegetable packing plant.



Last night the families of the men spoke publicly about them for the first time since the blaze.



In a statement released through Warwickshire County Council, the family of Mr Stephens, who was based at Alcester fire station, paid tribute to the dedicated family man.



His fiancee Emma Crocker, his mother Sharon, and his father Paul said: "Ashley was a wonderful loving father, fiancee, son and brother and he will always be in our hearts.



"He adored his family and his football and was an ardent Manchester United follower.



"He lived his life for his family, especially his fiancee, Emma, and three-month-old son George."



Mr Yates-Badley was also based at Alcester fire station. His wife Fay, mother Mandy Baylis and father Stephen Baylis said: "Darren was a larger than life character and would speak to, and help, anyone he met.



"Darren treated everyone equally and with the same kindness.



"We didn't realise the impact that Darren had on other people's lives and he is our hero."



Mr Reid has worked as a firefighter in Warwickshire for the past four years, based at Rugby and Stratford stations.



He joined Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service in February 2003 and was promoted to watch manager in 2005.



Mr Averis was based at Stratford Fire Station, and joined the service in March 2004 after working as a Ministry of Defence firefighter based at Marlborough Barracks.



Mr Brown described all the men as "heroes".



He said: "Our work involves us in often difficult, and sometimes highly dangerous, call-outs.



"These professional men were doing their job of controlling a raging fire - with a tragic outcome - but their actions remain those of heroes. Men who save lives and properties.



"Our hearts and minds are with the family and friends of these local men."

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