The Abbeystead Disaster marks its 30 year anniversary on 23rd May. A group of 44 people, many from St. Michaels on Wyre were having a tour of the waterworks valve plant at Abbeystead. Unfortunately 16 people never made it home and others were severely injured. The tour was set up to reassure local people that recent flooding in St. Michaels on Wyre would improve after its construction.
Over time methane gas worked its way up into the main chamber from over 1000m below ground. The methane ignited causing the a massive explosion (although the cause of ignition has never been determined). The force of the blast lifted thirty concrete roof beams (each weighing about 2.5 tons) upwards through the ground before they fell back into the chamber.
An inquest into the deaths in 1984 found a majority verdict of accidental death on all 16 victims. In 1987 at Lancaster High Court the designers of the building – Binnie & Partners were found 55% liable in negligence for failing to exercise reasonable care. NWWA was found to be 30% liable for failing to ensure the plant was safe. And Nuttall’s Ltd who constructed the works, were found 15% liable for failing to carry out tests for methane. All three appealed and eventually Binnie & Partners were found to be 100% responsible. Out of court settlements were apparently reached between all concerned.
The Abbeystead Disaster was a shocking tragedy for all concerned and our thoughts will be with the families.