Man died after ‘explosion’ at military pyrotechnics factory – coroner told

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A 19-year-old man died after being “heavily burned” in an explosion at a military pyrotechnics factory, an inquest opening has heard.

Fabian Rozniatowski died on May 11, almost four months after the incident at the factory run by PW Defence in Draycott, Derbyshire, on January 20 this year.

Mr Rozniatowski died as a result of injuries sustained in the explosion after spending months in an intensive care unit.

An inquest opening on Wednesday heard that Mr Rozniatowski was working in a room alone mixing compounds to be used in smoke grenades when the explosion occurred.

The explosion that took place was confined to the mixing room that Fabian was allocated to work in that evening. He was the only person in that room

Detective Chief Inspector James Carver, Derbyshire Police

Giving evidence, Detective Chief Inspector James Carver, of Derbyshire Police, said: “Derbyshire Police and Fire & Rescue were called to the location of PW Defence Limited in Draycott on January 20 this year.

“This was following an explosion that took place around 9pm.

“We were told that Fabian had been working at the premises for a number of months.”

Mr Carver said that at the time of the explosion, he was working on a production line “where they make smoke grenades for military purposes, for training purposes”.

He said: “(Mr Rozniatowski’s) job for that evening was mixing various compounds that would create the actual smoke from the device.

“The explosion that took place was confined to the mixing room that Fabian was allocated to work in that evening. He was the only person in that room.”

Mr Carver said that a supervisor saw Mr Rozniatowski “heavily burned and calling out for help” immediately after the explosion. Mr Rozniatowski was treated in the site’s medical room before emergency services arrived.

He was able to make a phone call to his mother as he was taken by ambulance to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

He was later transferred to the specialist burns unit at Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester, where he died.

A forensic post-mortem examination carried out on May 19 gave a medical cause of death as the consequence of burns.

Mr Carver confirmed to coroner Sophie Lomas that an investigation into the incident, led jointly by Derbyshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), remains ongoing, adding that it was a “lengthy process”.

Several of Mr Rozniatowski’s family and friends attended the hearing at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court, with many wearing red T-shirts with a picture of him inside a white heart and the name “Fabz” underneath.

One man also wore a Manchester United shirt with “RIP Fabz” and the number 19 printed on the back.

The court heard that Mr Rozniatowski, who was born in Poland and lived in Littleover, Derby, worked as a production operative at the factory in Wilne Road, Draycott.

PW Defence was bought by WesCom Defence, based in Havant, Hampshire, in February 2021.

The WesCom website says the company is a “trusted global producer of pyrotechnics to the defence industry” and a “trusted supplier to UK MOD, our NATO allies and friendly nations and customers worldwide”.

In a statement in May, the company extended its condolences to Mr Rozniatowski’s family and friends and said it was “fully co-operating” with the police and HSE but said it would be “inappropriate to make any further statement”.

Adjourning proceedings, Ms Lomas, assistant coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, said: “I’m not in a position to hear evidence today and there is an ongoing investigation.

“It could be that that investigation takes a long time because it’s a complicated scene and it is a complicated set of circumstances, so what I will do today is adjourn the inquest and we will keep things under review.

“I expect that if we do hold the inquest in this case, it won’t be for quite a while, probably many, many months, so I just want to manage expectations that we may be waiting a while.

“Let me conclude by offering my sincere condolences.”

While no date was scheduled for the full inquest, Ms Lomas said an internal review would take place around January 3 next year.

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