East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Chief recognises that it is a very difficult time for those involved in the Marlie Farm fire and fatal explosion.
The decision to appeal against July’s High Court ruling over compensation was made by the insurers and we are bound by that decision. The legal process is ongoing.
Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Des Prichard is urging all parties to work to resolve this for the sake of the families of Brian Wembridge and Geoff Wicker, and for those others injured during the incident. We were hopeful that a meeting involving all parties would take place in order to achieve this.
The legal process has taken a long time in part due to the criminal trial of a father and son who ran Marlie Farm. Martin and Nathan Winter were jailed for manslaughter.
At the time of the incident, we pledged to find out what went wrong and take action. We have carried out our own investigation and brought in changes to the way we deal with these sorts of fires.
Two long-serving members of ESFRS, Geoff Wicker and Brian Wembridge, lost their lives while attending the incident at Shortgate near Lewes, on December 3rd 2006.
In December 2009, a father and son were convicted of their manslaughter. Martin Winter, owner of Festival Fireworks UK Ltd, was sentenced to seven years at Lewes Crown Court. His son Nathan was sentenced to five years (reduced to four years on appeal in 2010). No criminal charges were brought against any member of the ESFRS.
The court heard Martin Winter was "grossly negligent" as he knew an unlicensed metal container packed with fireworks could explode if a blaze broke out. As the Winters’ insurance was invalid because of the illegal storage of fireworks at Marlie Farm, victims of the tragedy were forced to seek compensation elsewhere.
A civil case, involving East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s insurers Zurich, began at the High Court in London in February 2013.