A wealthy company director and two managers have been charged over a mill explosion which killed four people.
George Boden, director of Wood Treatment Ltd, which ran Bosley Mill in Cheshire, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter following the explosion and devastating fire at the mill in July 2015.
The firm has been charged as a corporate body with corporate manslaughter and both the firm and Boden have been charged with health and safety offences, along with two other managers.
Workers Dorothy Bailey, 62, Derek Barks (known as William), 51, Derek Moore, 62, and Jason Shingler, 38, were all killed in the disaster, with others left injured after the blast at the wood flour mill which made wood chip products.
Jenny Hopkins, head of the Crown Prosecution Service special crime and counter terrorism division, said: “Following explosions at a wood flour mill in Bosley on Friday July 17 2015 which led to the death of four people and injuries to a number of others, the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised charges.
“Cheshire Police has been authorised by the CPS to charge Wood Treatment Limited with corporate manslaughter and George Boden, one of its directors, with gross negligence manslaughter.
“The company, Mr Boden and two others who were managers for the company have also been charged with health and safety offences.”
Boden and the two managers, Philip Smith and Peter Shingler, will appear at Stockport Magistrates’ Court on December 2.
The explosion, on Friday, July 17, 2015 resulted in a 1,000C inferno raging for days before the bodies of the victims were recovered from the wreckage of the devastated mill buildings.
The mill dominated the village of Bosley in rural Cheshire, with many locals working at the plant, which made wood products in a process producing wood flour, which is airborne and highly-combustible particles of wood.
It had been used as a flour mill since 1927, producing woodchip products commonly sold in pet shops and other retailers.
The manufacture involved pulverising wood into very fine or sawdust particles, which can be used to make a variety of products including wood chips, wood and plastic composite materials and fillers.
It was the main employer in the village, which has a population of around 400, with almost everyone knowing someone affected by the disaster.
An initial report of a fire at the premises at about 9.10am on the day of the disaster was followed by two loud explosions – which some witnesses likened to “an earthquake” – and then massive plumes of flames were seen up to 70 metres high.
It took rescuers several days to recover all the bodies of those killed and the fire service remained at the site for a month afterwards.
A disaster fund raised £240,000 to help the families of the dead and injured in the wake of the disaster.
Derek Moore, 62, from Stoke-on-Trent left wife Lynne and was a stepfather to Mark and brother to Linda, Ann and Darren.
Dorothy Bailey, 62, was a mother-of-three and herself one of seven children, with five brothers and one sister.
Her family said she was “a loving mother to her sons Christopher, Matthew and Edward and a doting grandmother to her grandchildren”.
She had lived in Bosley most of her life but only began working at the factory a short time before her death.
Jason Shingler, 38, was brought up in nearby North Rode and had a large extended family, who described him as a “loving son” to parents John and Angela and “kind-hearted and someone who would do anything for anyone”.
Father-of-one William Barks, 51, from Leek, Staffordshire, had been married for 31 “happy” years to wife Debbie.
His family said after the disaster: “William enjoys building and restoring motorbikes and is a loving family man who lives a simple and happy life.”
He had worked at the mill for 12 years.
In a memorial service after the blast, the Rev Pam Butler, Methodist minister for Bosley, said: “It is like there is a wound and this wound has been continually opened as the revelations come out of one body after the next.
“It’s ripped the community apart. This is really painful to get through, it’s harrowing.”
The mill owner, George Boden, 64, runs a number of family-run businesses and lives in the village of Mellor, near Stockport.
A prolonged investigation was carried out by Cheshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive.
The full charges are that Wood Treatment Ltd is accused of four offences of corporate manslaughter relating to the deaths of Dorothy Bailey, Derek Barks, Derek Moore and Jason Shingler, and one offence of failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees in breach the Health and Safety Act at Work Act 1974.
George Boden is charged with four offences of manslaughter by gross negligence, relating to the deaths of Dorothy Bailey, Derek Barks, Derek Moore and Jason Shingler, and one offence under the Health and Safety Act at Work Act 1974.
Smith and Shingler are both charged with an offence under the Health and Safety Act at Work Act.