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Bereavement due to traumatic death

Death due to an industrial explosion

Those bereaved as a result of unsafe or unhealthy workplaces often feel angry and frustrated. Some feel that employers should have prevented these incidents and that they have not had justice. Some of those bereaved in this way belong to Families Aganist Corporate Killers (FACK), a national network which campaigns to stop workers and others being killed in preventable incidents and which guides bereaved families to sources of legal help and emotional support.

In 2005 Dorothy’s son, Mark, was killed in an industrial incident. He was working in a waste and recycling plant. On the day he died he had been asked to load and bale 4,000 gas filled aerosols. The machine was not designed for this purpose. At first Dorothy was ‘consumed with rage’. Now she keeps her anger under control (also see Dorothy’s account in ‘Changing emotions and physical reactions). Dorothy appreciated the kindness of the intensive care unit doctor but felt that the family liaison officer was very insensitive at this time.
 

Dorothy described what happened when her son, Mark, was fatally injured in a huge explosion in a...

Dorothy described what happened when her son, Mark, was fatally injured in a huge explosion in a...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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Well he [my son] said that the health and safety procedures were almost nil, and he was being bullied by his general manager into taking huge safety risks, and on the 11th April 2005, which was in fact my birthday, the last birthday I’ve celebrated, he phoned to say that he had got another job, and he would be handing in his notice. And I never spoke to him again. That was the last time I spoke to him.
 
And on the 12th April the general manager in that company took a load of 4000 aerosols, gas filled aerosols for processing for scrap, and he loaded them into a baling machine and he told Mark to bale them up. The aerosols were filled with butane gas as I said, Mark was alone in the building, there was a huge explosion, fireball which blew part of the roof off the building, and the windows out, and Mark was set alight. The fire exit was locked from the inside, Mark was screaming for help, there was no fire hose, there was no fire blanket, the staff had never had fire drill, they didn’t know where the extinguishers were, when they found, the extinguishers, they were empty. So he was basically left to burn to death.
 
I’m so sorry.
 
When the fire, when the ambulance arrived, Mark was still alive, he actually walked into the ambulance. The first we knew was a phone call from my daughter in law, and she said, “You have to come now, there’s been an explosion, and Mark’s in hospital, and there’s no hope.” So my husband and I just threw a case, threw a case in the car and it took us five hours to get down there, and we arrived at the hospital, oh about midnight, and they took us upstairs to the intensive care and a young doctor, a very nice, that was the last act of kindness I think, that was shown to us, the doctor explained to us what had happened, and said they had thought of taking Mark, moving Mark to a burns unit, but he said he chances of survival are nil, so we thought we would make him comfortable and keep him here till you came. So we went in to the room and he was just burned beyond recognition.
 
Just a charred body. And we were allowed to see him, excuse me, we were allowed to say goodbye, and while we were sitting there saying goodbye there was a clattering of dishes from the sink, from the kitchen next door, somebody very noisily washing dishes, at midnight, and because it, it, you know it sort of got through to my brain because I thought how come somebody be washing dishes, when some, my son is dying.
 
And when we came out of the room they switched the life support system off, we came out of the room and this woman met us in the corridor and said, “Well I can go home now folks, would anybody like a lift?”, with a dish towel in her hand. And I learned later that that was the Family Liaison Officer. That was my first introduction to the Family Liaison Officer. Not one sorry, no regrets, just “I can go home now” he’s dead. That was the, that was the impression.
 
What was she doing washing dishes?
 
Ah, well she’d been making coffee and whatever, and you know she’d been waiting there for us coming, and the family were there, my son’s best friend was there, he was the best man at their the wedding. He was there with his wife, and they were supporting my daughter in law. 

Michael’s son, Lewis, was injured in an explosion at the garage where he worked. He died three days later. Michael felt numb with grief.
 

After an explosion at the garage Michael and his wife went to the hospital to see Lewis, who was...

After an explosion at the garage Michael and his wife went to the hospital to see Lewis, who was...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
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Yeah, on the 19th February 2004 I received a phone call from the wife to say that there was an accident at Lewis’s place of work, and he was badly injured. And I was at the time working in Southampton, so I, I drove back and on the way back I could hear, I had the radio on and I could hear about the explosion. Not realising what was, what was I was getting into getting up there but I felt really bad because my wife was actually housebound, she’s disabled.
 
And she couldn’t get out of the house, and my daughter went up to the hospital and my wife warned her sister to meet my daughter at the hospital. I arrived at the hospital and I was greeted by a nurse who took me to a room and asked me if I was prepared for what I was about to see. And I said, “Well of course I, you know, I just want to see my son”, and she said, “Well you’ll have to wait about ten, fifteen minutes because the surgeons are with him at the moment, he’s being treated, and I said, “Is, is he alive?” And they said, “Yes, he is, you know he’s alive, but he’s received some bad burns.” About fifteen twenty minutes later , about that, sorry, at that time I was taken into another room and I met my daughter and my sister in law, and we sat together and the nurse came back in and said that we could come out and see Lewis. When we went out Lewis was asleep, they’d sedated him, and he was completely wrapped in sort of white blankets and some soot round his nose, but his face was, you know, unmarked and there wasn’t any burns on his face.
 
What was round his nose?
 
The soot, from the,
 
Oh the soot.

The soot from the explosion, where he’d breathed in the fumes and the smoke. But they said that was you know, we could only sort of see him and that was it, he had to be rushed off to a special burns unit. And they, we were just led away after that. So we came home.

And then we were told that the next day he was, they were going to have to do some operations to put some cadaver skin on him.
 
Transplant skin?
 
Transplant skin, to take away the burnt tissue and put fresh skin onto it. The operation would be about five or six hours, so we knew that was happening the next day, and every time we rang up the next day we were told he was still in surgery, and so we were getting a bit concerned because it was going on long, I think in the end he was in their sort of like ten, eleven hours, in the surgery. And when we went back up the nurse said well because he was such a strong lad they could do more, so they took the opportunity to replace more, rather than do it in two separate operations, they continued to do it in one. So I felt quite hopeful with that and they told us that they had to amputate one of his fingers because it was so badly burned you know he, he couldn’t use it, and we were sort of wondering you know how Lewis would cope with that, so we then left the hospital, came home, and everything was sort of quiet for that next day, and I think it was in the night, the night of the third night we had a phone call from the hospital, about 3 o’clock in the morning to say Lewis has taken a turn for the worse and we need to get up to the hospital. So we went up to the hospital and we sort of waited, we waited for about 4 or 5 hours before we actually got to see Lewis, and the doctor came and saw us and said, there’d been quite a few problems, Lewis’s internal organs had started to shut down and they didn’t think that you know he was going to last much longer. At that point we were actually brought into the room to see Lewis, and whilst we were in there the machine’s crashed and, you know, all Lewis’s vital signs stopped, and the Doctor said, “You know, we, there’s nothing more we can do, we need to, have permission to turn the life support off.”
 
Which I couldn’t do. So my wife had to make that decision. And well, they said that actually you know it he’s no longer here.
 
I’m so sorry.
 
So that was, that was the hardest part. And then you sort of, you’re in limbo you know you’re just you know it’s all sorts of things go through your head, and I was told I had to wait behind because I had to pick up the death certificate. And I thought, “Well, what’s so important about the death certificate. Can they not post it?”, but apparently you have to wait. So I waited for about 20 minutes to get the death certificate. And then we went outside and sort of cuddled each other, and then we came home. Its, it’s just such a hard thing to describe because it’s as if somebody reached inside and just wrenched everything like from inside you, you feel totally numb, and even just looking at my wife just reminded me of Lewis you know. 

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated August 2013

 

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