Shropshire Star

Hinstock warehouse collapse: Worker freed after more than nine hours under cheese and shelving

[gallery] A worker has been freed after being buried alive under tons of shelving and cheese for more than nine hours.


The man miraculously escaped with just minor injuries after emergency crews worked throughout Friday to free him from under the giant blocks of cheese.

Workers were seen running for their lives from the warehouse near Market Drayton at around 9.30am. After a roll call it became clear that one employee was missing.

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Thirteen fire crews were called to the warehouse, which stocked 20kg blocks of cheese.

The fire service said the collapse started with racking inside the 60 metre by 20 metre structure. It is believed this set off a domino-like chain reaction.

Although the building itself has remained standing, the collapse left the walls of the structure bowing and fire crews had to cut their way into the warehouse to free the trapped worker.

He finally walked free at around 5pm.

Staff comforted each other following the drama and one needed treatment for shock.

The trapped man, whose family had been informed of the collapse, is believed to be a fork lift truck driver from Poland.

He was named by colleagues as Tomasz Wiszniewski, who is believed to be in his mid-30s and has worked for the company for about two years having started off as agency staff.

A drone was brought in as fire crews cut through the roof and side of the property in a bid to find Mr Wiszniewski.

Search and rescue specialists climbed into the warehouse and called for silence in the hope of hearing him.

Around 35 firefighters, police, the Midlands Air Ambulance, search dogs and specialist in dealing with confined spaces were among those at the scene.

Speaking from the warehouse Scott Hurford, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service's incident commander, described the dangerous conditions his crew had to work under.

"We could hear the wrappers cracking and the inside moving," he said.

"It was an extremely dangerous situation and there was a risk of further collapse inside. It was an extremely difficult environment to work in.

How the racking looked before the collapse

"We did get in and do an initial search but found nothing. The dogs had been in and identified areas of interest.

"The shelves were 80 metres high stacked full of cheese."

Company owner Mark Edwards said: "I was off site this morning and the transport manager said I better come back in.

"I got here about about 11am, and we have just been very anxious to see if anyone was going to come out.

"We couldn't believe it when he walked out.

"We don't know what has happened, but at the end of the day Tomasz is here and the rest can be put right."

His sister Debbie Belcher, added: "It is a miracle. The sense of relief, I can't tell you, it is just the best.

"You can feel the mood here, we all whooped and cheered and whistled when he came out."

Mrs Belcher said the clean-up operation would be huge and that the company would look into what had caused the collapsed rackings.

She said: "The training is not to go outside the fork lift, and he stayed inside the one he was working in and it saved his life."

Fire service spokesman Malcolm Stevenson said it was too early to be sure of the cause of the accident.

"We have no idea the why the racking inside has collapsed," he said.

"The building itself has not collapsed although it has been damaged by the collapsed racking inside. There's a great deal of it."

He said it was a very large warehouse where the likes of Tesco and Argos use to keep huge amounts of stock.

"It's metal racking, virtually up to the ceiling, pretty high, and it's full of product of various size. The racking is organised in corridors if you like. Most of that has fallen over and collapsed."

While emergency crews were on the scene access to the building was restricted, with Hatton Road closed in both directions between the A41 junction and the Narrow Lane junction.

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