Abbeystead Disaster: 23 sombre pictures of the Lancashire village in 1984 when an explosion killed 16 people

Abbeystead, nestled in the heart of the Lancashire countryside, was left devastated 40 years ago this week.

An explosion at a water pumping station cause catastrophic damage and claimed the lives of 16 people.

It was May 23 1984 when officials were taking people on a tour of Abbeystead Station, just north of the village, to convince them that it wasn’t responsible for flooding. While they were inside, underground methane ignited. Thirty-six of the 44 visitors to visit the Abbeystead plant that night were from St Michael’s. Among the dead were three of the NWWA officials who were acting as guides.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that the siting of the Abbeystead pumping station underground, and close to seams of coal, had made it vulnerable to build-ups of methane gas estimated to be 20,000 years old. The station had also been unused for several weeks before the visit, and the gas had accumulated in the water pipe leading into the valve chamber.

On the 30th anniversary, survivor Pat Kaylor spoke to the Lancashire Post recalling that fateful day. She said: “My clothes were practically all burned off and my skin was just in tatters, and I could hear everybody inside crying and screaming.” A service was held at St Michael’s on Wyre Church on Sunday, May 19 to commemorate the disaster.

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