Stephen Hampton inquest: Worker shouldn’t have been ‘hot cutting’ fuel tank at Swain’s Lane building site, jury hears

A man was critically injured in the Swain's Lane explosion (Pic: Sarah Lawrence)

A man was critically injured in the Swain's Lane explosion (Pic: Sarah Lawrence) - Credit: Archant

The director of the demolition firm which was carrying out work on the building site where Stephen Hampton was killed in 2017 say he shouldn’t have been “hot cutting” the fuel tank which later exploded.

Under questioning at St Pancras Coroner’s Court Oliver Swain, a director of Material Movements Limited (MML), said Stephen’s decision to “hot cut” the tank was “at best, foolhardy.”

A jury on Monday afternoon heard the former fuel tank full of water had been discovered.

Mr Hampton should have then told Dean Jones, who worked for MML, and Mr Swain. It would have then been crushed after being drained.

If the tank was too large for this to happen, it would have been taken away whole by a lorry.

Instead, a jury heard Stephen had drained the water inside it before cutting it up. However a jury heard this wasn’t the right process, as the water could contaminate the ground.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell asked if it was standard practice for former fuel tanks like those at the Swain’s Lane site to be cut up using “hot cutting,” which uses oxyacetylene to slice metal.

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Mr Swain said not. He added: “What Steve did was down to Steve. There was no description of what he was doing in the method statement.

“Steve’s actions were fool hardy at best. I have never heard of a fuel tank being hot cut like this before.”

He then agreed with Ms Hassell that doing so was dangerous. “100 per cent,” he said.

Stephen was killed on March 16 while cutting through “tank three.” The site in Highgate had previously been a petrol station and had three underground fuel tanks.

At the start of the second week of evidence, a jury was also told that there wasn’t a site manager for the project. Dean Jones, who is another of MML’s directors, acted as the person responsible for overseeing the project, but wasn’t always on site.

A Mr Baldwin was listed as site manager, lawyer James Rickard told the court, but Mr Swain told the court that he had never visited.

The inquest continues. A verdict is expected on Thursday.