Fire chief mourns ninth blast victim

The senior firefighter who led the rescue operation in the aftermath of the Glasgow plastics factory blast said yesterday that the moment he heard the last victim had been pulled dead from the rubble was the most heart-rending of his 23-year career.

The body of Timothy Smith, 31, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire, was the last of the nine victims to be recovered from the wrecked Stockline Plastics in Maryhill, Glasgow, on Friday.

At the time, Brian Sweeney, 42, the commander of Strathclyde Fire Brigade, was paying his respects at a memorial service for the 14 elderly people who died in a nursing home blaze in Uddingston last January.

He said: "We're trained to deal with tragedy. But when I took that call a week of pressure just suddenly overtook me. I've never been there emotionally and I really don't want to go there again. I just felt immense sorrow for his family and for everyone who'd lost loved ones."

Three survivors of Tuesday's blast at Grovepark Street remain in a serious condition; 14 were stable yesterday.

Mr Sweeney said the formal investigation into the cause, launched yesterday, could take months, as police and Health and Safety Executive officials comb through the wreckage for clues.

"There was an element of 'What if this had been a terrorist attack?' about the Grovepark blast," he said. 'Would the emergency services cope?' The answer is 'Yes, they would, they are well-equipped and well-organised.' We proved you're not just a sitting duck. Your chances of survival are high: we're getting much, much smarter at getting people out of these places."

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