Around 10:45 pm, the wife of the former owner of a lower-tier Seveso fireworks assembly and storage site committed suicide by detonating the contents of a storage room. A neighbour called the fire station after hearing 2 blasts.

The victim’s body was found a few meters from the building. She had deliberately ignited the stored products, which in turn led to the explosion. The 4-m² room contained six 200-mm diameter shells along with 80 aerial maroons 50 mm in size, for a total of 14,468.2 grams of active ingredients. The presence of such a quantity complied with the authorised charge (i.e. 300 kg of products in Risk Division 1.1).

The video surveillance system was operational, yet the monitoring camera lens had been covered by an object (cardboard?). Following the first explosion, this object was blown away, allowing the camera to switch back on: the end of the event could be filmed. Successive explosions ensued for at least 10 seconds, prior to ignition of the flammable components.

The roof was blasted off this storage structure, its door burned and a wall ripped open. Projections of lightweight fragments were limited to a 15-metre radius around the room. Both the position of the explosion point, quite far from peripheral land uses, and the existence of surrounding earth walls prevented projectiles from leaving the site.

Since the company’s judicial liquidation at the end of 2015 and its buyout by a shareholder in March 2016, the former owner and his wife had been living nearby. The victim was able to gain access to company premises most likely via a passage created by dogs in the fence separating the yard of her house and the storage site. In terms of height, the fence was compliant with regulatory requirements.

As of two days prior to the incident, the site’s anti-intrusion alarm had been inoperable. It was scheduled for repair on the day the suicide took place. Since the building door had been blown off, it was impossible to determine if it had been breached or if the victim had an entrance pass. The new operator indicated that subsequent to taking over the firm, he had changed the lock cylinders on some buildings, though not on the premises involved herein.

The most recent site inspection had uncovered the non-compliance of doors and locks, in addition to the remote monitoring station, in comparison with current standard references (Certifications A2P2 and APSAD).

The inspectors’ report requested the operator to:

  • bring the anti-intrusion alarm back online as quickly as possible;
  • verify and repair the fence;
  • complete the lock cylinder replacement step on all doors to premises throughout the site.