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HSE holds fire over gas blast inquiry

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is still waiting to decide whether to prosecute over the death of a Plymouth schoolgirl following a gas explosion in January.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said last week there was “insufficient evidence “ to pursue a criminal prosecution over the death of nine-year-old Stephanie Hammacott.

But, the HSE has confirmed it is still investigating the gas blast which destroyed a home in the Southway area of the city. Stephanie was walking past the scene at the time and was buried under the rubble.

A HSE spokeswoman said: “Our investigation looks at the incident from a different angle to the police and we are still looking at the health and safety related issues.

“We will not be taking a decision on whether to prosecute or not until the coroner has concluded the inquest.”

HSE inspectors worked closely with the police on the original investigation which concluded the explosion was caused by the fracture of a low-pressure gas main on the corner of Bulteel Gardens.

It remains to be confirmed why the fracture occurred, but the gas escaping from this main seeped through voids and air pockets into a house in Bulteel Gardens, where it ignited and caused the explosion.

During the investigation documentation was seized and analysed from various bodies and companies.  

Devon and Cornwall Police said: “The file on this incident has been returned by the CPS advising that there is insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution. The report has been passed to Her Majesty’s Coroner and a date for the inquest is now awaited.”

Stephanie’s family declined to comment this week.