Fireworks boss jailed over explosion deaths

|News, Violent crime

A company boss has been jailed for 10 years today (13 June) after two people died in a series of explosions and a fire at his fireworks shop.

Richard Pearson, 44, owned SP Fireworks Limited on Tilcon Avenue in Stafford. He was in the shop on 30 October 2014, when an accidental ignition caused fireworks to explode and a catastrophic fire.

Simon Hillier, who was working with the defendant, and Stewart Staples, a customer, both died whilst Pearson himself suffered serious injuries.

The police investigation found Pearson had been storing fireworks far in excess of the quantities that he was licensed to store in the premises and in a manner that could not possibly comply with safety limits. The premises were packed with boxes of fireworks stored far too closely together leading to a devastating, chain reaction following the accidental ignition.

The investigation also found fireworks had been prepared, for an upcoming display within the premises instead of on site, increasing the risk of an explosion. Inadequate controls and measures were in place to limit the spread of fire should it occur.

Pearson was sentenced to 10 years in prison at Stafford Crown Court today.

Elizabeth Reid, from the CPS, said: “Safety regulations and licence requirements were flouted by Richard Pearson with devastating consequences. He was under a duty to ensure he took reasonable care in handling and storing fireworks so that customers and employers could not be harmed. He had many years of experience handling fireworks and would have known full well the dangers that existed in running his business the way he did.

“The CPS presented evidence which showed that Pearson’s failures caused the deaths of two men and were so serious and so fundamental that they can properly be categorised as criminal.

“Our thoughts are with the families of Mr Staples and Mr Hillier.”

Notes to editors

  • Elizabeth Reid is a Specialist Prosecutor in the CPS Special Crime Division
  • Richard Pearson denied two counts of gross negligence manslaughter but was convicted by a jury following a trial at Stafford Crown Court which concluded in May 2018

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