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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 13:59 GMT
Firefighters' inquests adjourned

An inquest into the deaths of four firefighters who died as a result of a warehouse blaze has been opened and adjourned until a later date.

Their bodies can now be released to their families, Warwickshire coroner Michael Coker confirmed.

The bodies of Ashley Stephens, 20, John Averis, 27, and Darren Yates-Badley, 24, were found inside the remains of the building in Atherstone-on-Stour.

Ian Reid, 44, died in hospital following the fire on 2 November.

DNA samples

The inquest heard his initial cause of death was given as carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation.

The cause of the death for the other three remains uncertain but is presumed to be the result of "conflagration" - an intense fire.

Relatives' DNA samples were used to identify the bodies.

He was a hero, he died doing something he loved
Amanda Baylis, Darren Yates-Badley's mother
Ian Reid gave up his job at the Inland Revenue earlier in the year to become a full-time firefighter at Rugby, the inquest was told.

But he also continued as a retained firefighter at Stratford.

In a statement his widow Julie described him as a perfect husband and family man who never missed one of their daughter Sophie's football matches.

Ashley Stephens' father, Paul, was also present at the inquest.

His statement described how his son joined the retained firefighters at Alcester when he was 18, something he himself had done.

He also spoke of his son's pride over the recent birth of his son George.

Kathleen Averis, John Averis' mother was supported by a family member as her statement was read out.

She spoke of how her son, a herdsman and forklift truck driver, hoped to become a full-time firefighter.

He had two brothers and was happy with girlfriend Amy, she said.

And Amanda Baylis read aloud her tribute to her son Darren Yates-Badley - a keen rugby player who played for Alcester.

He also became a retained firefighter at 18 because he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

"He was a hero, he died doing something he loved," she said.

Adjourning the inquest Mr Coker said firefighting was a dangerous task which required bravery day by day.

"Everyone of you can be proud, as I know you are, of the young men who are prepared to undertake that for the people of Warwickshire.

'Good progress'

Warwickshire Police are leading an investigation into the fire alongside the Health and Safety Executive and the fire service.

Forensic examinations at the scene are expected to take several weeks due to the size and condition of the building and the investigation itself is expected to last several months.

Det Ch Insp Adrian McGee said the force was making good progress but there was a considerable amount of work to be done.

"This is a complex investigation involving considerable resources from Warwickshire Police and we are working closely with other forces and the national fire and rescue service to try to provide answers for the families about what happened on the night and why the four men died," he said.