At 9:45 am, a vehicle transporting nearly 800 kg of explosives exploded while making a U-turn on a company’s premises within an industrial park where it had taken a wrong turn.
The lorry, specially equipped to transport up to 5 tonnes of explosives, had already made 2 deliveries (at 7:15 and 8 am) and was headed towards a fireworks production plant. Upon arriving at the industrial park, the driver realised that he had taken the wrong road; he drove over a speed bump and entered the parking lot of a company within the park in order to make a U-turn. The watchman at this company’s site and two drivers on hand detected smoke and then flames coming from the lorry’s load. They stopped the vehicle, alerted local fire-fighters and oversaw the site’s evacuation. These measures however proved insufficient and bystanders witnessed the incident escalate from the site entrance and neighbouring buildings.
12 minutes later, the lorry’s cargo detonated, causing the death of a fire-fighter, who happened to be 15 m away. More than 100 people were injured, 87 of whom required hospitalisation, 2 in critical condition. The damage to buildings and cars in the vicinity was considerable, and broken windows were recorded up to 1.2 km away. A crater 3.5 m in radius and 46 cm deep marked where the lorry had stopped.
The vehicle’s crossing of the speed bump caused a package to fall carrying comb-type starters for fireworks, leading to their ignition followed by spreading of the fire to the other loading items (detonators + civilian explosives), until the ultimate explosion. The packaging was noncompliant with standards and hazardous: an excessive number of fireworks per box, presence of a composition and rust in metal boxes, etc. The operator was fined 250,000 pounds for breaking British law (as per the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974).