Transco fined £15m ($27m) for gas blast

Utility firm Transco has been fined £15m – a UK record – after being convicted on a charge arising from an explosion which killed four people.

Andrew and Janette Findlay and their children Stacey, 13, and Daryl, 11, died in the explosion in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, in December 1999.

Transco was found guilty after a six-month trial in Edinburgh of breaching health and safety laws.

The blast, caused by a leaking gas main, destroyed the Findlays’ home.

The £15m fine will not go to the family but directly into the public purse.

The judge, Lord Carloway, said that Transco had not shown any remorse for the tragedy.

In a statement after the verdict, Transco said it was disappointed with the outcome.

The firm said: “What happened at Larkhall in December 1999 was a terrible tragedy and our thoughts remain to this day with the families and community who were so affected by it.

“The company is disappointed with the verdict and will now consider the judgment in detail prior to deciding whether or not to take any further action.”

The court heard that in March 2005 Transco had a £390m operating profit on a turnover of £2.2bn.

Four members of the Findlay family died when their house in Carlisle Road, Larkhall, was totally destroyed in the early morning blast.

A statement on behalf of the families of the victims said: “We are pleased with today’s verdict which means Drew, Janette, Stacey and Daryl can now rest in peace. They remain forever loved and forever missed.

“The verdict does not change the fact that our two families will never be the same.

“However, we take some small comfort from the hope this verdict brings that no other family should ever suffer as we have.

“We only ever wanted truth and justice.”

The jury began deliberating on Monday after hearing 26 weeks of evidence and a week of legal submissions.

On Thursday, it returned a verdict finding Transco guilty under health and safety legislation.

Transco was convicted of failing to maintain the iron gas main which ran through the Findlays’ garden when it was extensively corroded and leaking.

The case centred on maintenance, repair and record keeping procedures.

The indictment alleged Transco failed to keep accurate records of its pipelines, including the iron main which the company believed was made from polyethylene.

The firm was also found guilty of failing to ensure that members of the public were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Health and Safety Executive spokesman John Sumner paid tribute to the investigators involved and offered condolences to the relatives of those who died.

Mr Sumner added: “The conviction sends a message not just to Transco but to all operators of hazardous plant of the need to keep accurate records, operate effective management systems and properly maintain pipelines and equipment.”

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