Widow of Broxburn man killed in steelworks blast three years is taking legal action over his death

The widow of a man killed in an explosion at a former steelworks site almost three years ago says she is no closer to finding out why he died.

By Stephen Wilkie
Friday, 17th June 2022, 12:59 pm

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John Mackay and his colleague Tommy Williams died during demolition in September 2019.

The pair were working at height, removing external steel furniture from a storage tank when there was a massive explosion.

Mr Mackay had been working as an access platform worker at the former SSI site in Redcar, near Middlesbrough, when tragedy struck, claiming his life and that of colleague Tommy Williams

John and Ann Mackay: Still waiting for answers about his death in horrific explosion

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His widow, Ann, 53, moved into their new home in Broxburn, West Lothian, just days before he died.

She is angry with the way her husband’s employer, Nationwide Platforms, responded and the lack of any death-in-service benefits.

It took firefighters a week to retrieve the bodies from the platform and Mr Mackay, a grandfather, had to be identified by his dental records.

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John Mackay, who died while working at the former SSI plant in Redcar (Pic: Cleveland Police)

The steelworks, at Redcar on Teesside, was being cleared after its Thai-based owners went into liquidation and 2,200 workers lost their jobs.

Mr Mackay, 49, was brought in to operate a hydraulic platform to allow another colleague time off to celebrate a birthday.

Mrs Mackay said: "My last conversation with John was at 13:30 and he was killed at 14:00. The last thing he said to me was that he loved me."

The accident is under investigation by Cleveland Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but after nearly three years Mrs Mackay says she is increasingly frustrated.

The inquiry has been trying to establish what was in the tanks and what caused the explosion that killed the men, who had been told they contained only rainwater and debris.

Mrs Mackay continued: "My husband went to work that day and didn't come back.

"Through no fault of his own he was killed and I've got no answers as to why. Two men lost their lives and it feels like nobody cares."

Mrs Mackay's lawyers are preparing legal action on her behalf against Nationwide Platforms, the site's occupiers South Tees Site Company and a demolition company.

Glen Millar, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: "In almost three years no-one has been held to account by the prosecuting authorities.

"As regards civil liability, those responsible are passing the buck rather than doing the decent thing and compensating Mrs Mackay for her grief and loss of financial support.

"The family are left with no alternative but to instruct me to raise Court of Session proceedings."

The South Tees Site Company said it had cooperated fully with the police, HSE and all other parties "to ensure no stone is left unturned in establishing exactly what happened".

A spokesperson for Nationwide Platforms said it also will assist with any investigations.

A spokesperson said: "The families of both John and Tommy remain in our thoughts and we hope that, for their sake, this investigation is concluded quickly so they can get the answers that they rightly deserve."

Cleveland Police and the HSE said they are working jointly investigating what caused the fatal explosion and had updated Mrs Mackay on recent developments in the case.

A HSE spokesperson said: “HSE are conscious that we are approaching the anniversary of the incident and our thoughts remain with the families. We are supporting the investigation led by Cleveland Police, and working hard to help bring this to a conclusion."