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13 December 2022

Death toll in Jersey flats explosion rises to seven

13 December 2022

The death toll in an explosion at a block of flats in Jersey has risen to seven, the island’s police chief said.

The blast at around 4am on Saturday destroyed a building in the Jersey capital of St Helier.

Seven people have now been confirmed dead, up from five, with two people still missing.

Seven of those involved have been named as Peter Bowler, 72, Raymond (Raymie) Brown, 71, Romeu and Louise De Almeida, 67 and 64 years, Derek and Sylvia Ellis, 61 and 73 years, and 63-year-old Billy Marsden.

Jersey’s Fire and Rescue Service has commissioned an independent investigation into the cause of the explosion to reassure people of its “relentless drive for the truth through facts”.

In a statement on Tuesday, Jersey Police chief Robin Smith said: “The families have been made aware of this announcement and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.

“The fatalities have not yet been formally identified. The Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) process must be carefully considered and managed in a dignified and compassionate way.

“Therefore, we are not yet able to confirm if the fatalities that have been found at the site correspond to the seven identities released by the missing Islanders families yesterday afternoon.

“The identities of the other islanders will be released by their families, with the support of police, at a later date.

“My thoughts and those of all the emergency response continues to be with the victims and families affected by this tragic incident.”

The Viscount’s Office has confirmed that inquests will only be opened once the DVI process has been fully completed.

Mr Smith said on Sunday that the “likely” cause was a gas leak – but Jo Cox, chief officer at Island Energy, said the flats affected were not connected to the gas network.

An independent investigation into the island’s fire service is ongoing after it was found the service had been called to the flats at 8.36pm on Friday, hours before the explosion.

Paul Brown, head of Jersey Fire and Rescue Service, said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon: “It’s inappropriate for me to talk about anything else on Friday evening because the most appropriate place to do that is through the investigative process, because the only important thing here is the families.

“Ordinarily we would investigate, we investigate hundreds of fires every year, but on this occasion we will commission independent investigators.

“I think it’s important that everybody is absolutely assured about the openness and transparency and the relentless drive for the truth through facts, and that’s why I’m determined that there should be an independent view of the cause of the fire and explosion.

“More practically, this is a large, complex event for a small service like ours. You can imagine all of our resources have been drawn into the response and so there is a resourcing issue there as well.”

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