Cumbria

Windermere wedding fireworks storeroom blast killed pair

Fire at Ecclerigg Image copyright Anthony Middleton
Image caption Fire ripped through an outbuilding containing fireworks ahead of a display at the wedding in the grounds of a cottage overlooking Windermere in the Lake District

A fireworks display organiser and his assistant died in an explosion in a fireworks storeroom ahead of a wedding display, a jury has heard.

Andrew Coates, 41, and Polly Connor, 46, were preparing a display in the grounds of groom John Simpson's cottage in Ecclerigg, when the blast happened.

The wedding was between insurance boss Mr Simpson, 61, and his bride, Nicole Rothwell, 44, on 30 August 2014.

A jury inquest has begun to decide what caused the fireworks to go off.

The inquest, in Kendal, heard how the newly-weds were having their photographs taken in the grounds of Larch Cottage, overlooking Windermere in the Lake District, when catering staff heard "snapping and popping sounds" coming from an outbuilding where fireworks were being stored.

Witnesses then reported hearing explosions "from all directions" and seeing a lot of smoke.

Firefighters were called to the scene and found the bodies of Mr Coates and Mrs Connor near the entrance of the fireworks storage room - with a metal cabinet on top of one of the bodies.

Post-mortem examinations showed the pair, both from Kendal, died from the effects of an explosion and a fire.

Image copyright Steve Barber
Image caption Mother-of-three Polly Connor and Mr Coates' were preparing for a fireworks display when they died

Jurors were told the store room was an L-shaped single-storey wooden construction which was split into three compartments, also containing a garage and another storage room.

Mr Simpson and father-of-one Mr Coates ran a business together named Stardust Fireworks and held a licence to stage displays at Larch Cottage.

In opening remarks to the jury, HM Coroner David Roberts, said: "In the course of the preparations of the fireworks some ignited and the consequence was the entire outbuilding and its contents were consumed by fire."

He said the jury would have to consider what caused the first firework to ignite and why the two who died had not been able to get out of the store room.

He said the training that Mr Coates received would also be considered as well as whether or not a risk assessment had been carried out.

The hearing is set to last up to five days.

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