Express & Star

"A fantastic son, a terrific dad.... We're shocked and devastated" Tributes as victims of Stafford fireworks tragedy named

The victims of the Stafford fireworks tragedy were named today, as their families paid moving tributes.


Two bodies were recovered yesterday from the wreckage of the factory that exploded in Stafford, as investigations continue into the cause of the blaze.

Simon Hillier, 41, was said to be a talented kickboxer who competed and trained youngsters at the Featherstone Kickboxing Club, in Wolverhampton. He was working at the store.

Simon Hillier

"Whilst we are still waiting for a formal identification to be made, as a family we are resigned to the fact that we will not see Simon again.

"We are all very proud of his sporting achievements and in everything else he did in life.

"He was a fantastic son and brother and a terrific dad, we all miss him dearly.

"We ask the media to please respect our privacy at this extremely difficult time."

Stewart Staples

"Stewart Gordon Staples, 57, of Cannock was a devoted family man with a wife, three children and a young grandson.

"He was raised in Great Wyrley, a Cannock Grammar schoolboy, before going on to Bradford University to study Civil Engineering.

"He worked for Staffordshire County Council Highways Department for 26 years, lately as the Laboratory Manager and Geotechnical Expert.

"He was a keen golfer and a member of Brocton Golf Club. He was also a member of the RSPB and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. He was a lifelong Walsall football team supporter. One of his favourite things was to walk over Cannock Chase with his family.

"We as a family are totally shocked and devastated about Stewart's death. We need to come to terms with the tragic loss of someone who was a devoted and much loved family man.

"We ask that the press respect our wishes to grieve alone in peace."

Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins added: "Stewart Staples worked in our highways department for 26 years. As a professional and a person he was one of the most respected, trusted and well-liked members of our staff, and a true gentleman. Stewart's friends and colleagues here at the county council will miss him terribly and our hearts go out to Stewart's family."

Mr Hillier lived on Mountside Street, Hednesford. A relative said: "We are just feeling numb at the moment and don't wish to say any more for now. Everybody is just in complete shock and we don't know how we will cope."

Paul Whitehouse, 50, who was Simon's instructor at Featherstone Kickboxing Club, also paid tribute to him saying he was a 'well respected and well liked member of the kickboxing community.'

The second person who died was named today as 57-year-old Stewart Staples, of Bond Way, Hednesford, who is believed to have been a customer.

Explosions and thick smoke rocked the area after SP Fireworks in Tilcon Avenue caught light at around 5.15pm on Thursday. Up to 50 firefighters tackled the blaze which sent thick plumes of smoke into the sky and rockets exploding inside and outside the warehouse.

Many staff in neighbouring units managed to escape but four people were injured, one of whom is fighting for his life.

The man in his 40s suffered serious burns and he remains in Birmingham Hospital in a critical condition.

A second casualty, a man in his 60s, was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire for treatment with a back injury. He has since been discharged.

Two other women were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

A 53-year-old man who was arrested in connection with the incident has been released from custody and will face no further action. Police are treating him as a witness.

Joint searches of the scene with police, Staffordshire, and West Midlands fire were continuing today.

Although formal identification isn't likely to be confirmed for some weeks, evidence gathered placed both men named today at the scene.

Supt Ian Coxhead, of Staffordshire Police, said: "Sadly, our inquiries have placed both men at the scene when the fire started.

"Our sympathies remain with the families involved and we're doing everything we can to help them at this distressing time.

"It is believed Simon was working at the premises while it's thought Stewart was a customer."

"A man in his 40s remains critically ill in hospital, while a fourth casualty is recovering at home.

"The destroyed building in Tilcon Avenue is a dangerous scene and it remains cordoned off while colleagues from the fire service, along with police investigators, continue their work.

"We anticipate this will be a lengthly and complex investigation, our work to establish the cause of the fire is going to take considerable time.

The store glows with the huge fire, which fire crews can be seen battling.
The fire raged for several hours

Staffordshire County Council confirmed the premises had been inspected on October 16 and met all safety requirements for the storage of fireworks.

Stafford Rugby Club's annual bonfire and firework display this weekend has been cancelled in light of the incident.

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