Investigations at the scene of the Leicester explosion which claimed the life of Asfordby teenager Leah Reek and four other people will formally conclude today (Monday).
Two weeks after the explosion which demolished a mini supermarket and the two storey flat above it, police, fire and specialists are to hand the site over to Leicester City Council, which will now start work to enable the area to be fully re-opened to pedestrians and traffic.
Leah’s boyfriend, Shane Ragoobeer, was also killed in the blast, at 7pm on February 25, along with his brother Sean and mother Mary, plus shop assistant Viktorija Ijevleva.
Several people were taken to hospital following the blast and one remains in a critical condition.
Three men were remanded in custody last week after appearing at Leicester Magistrates Court charged with five counts of manslaughter and arson with intent to endanger life.
Superintendent Shane O’Neill, of Leicestershire Police, said: “The work facing investigators at the scene in Hinckley Road has been extremely challenging, and harrowing for those on the site.
“Not only have we been looking for clues to explain the cause of the explosion, but – tragically – we have also been looking for the remains of those who lost their lives that night.
“The task has been gruelling and extremely upsetting, made even more challenging by the terrible weather conditions we have experienced.”
He added: “Throughout these long, two weeks, we’ve had to ensure the safety of the officers and investigators is protected, and have had to suspend work on several occasions to allow further demolition work of neighbouring structures to take place.
“Over the last fortnight, hundreds of people have been involved in the operation, from firefighters and police officers to council staff and regional and national colleagues who have expertise in such recovery work.
“Everything we recovered from the scene has been removed to a secure location where the painstaking work of examination continues.”
Representatives of the Leicestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service led the multi-agency response in the first few days following the blast.
Group manager Matt Cane aid: “I’d like to thank all the emergency services involved in the response to the incident and to the search teams who have remained on site in Hinckley Road for their tireless work over the past two weeks.
“All officers, staff and volunteers have been working in incredibly difficult conditions but have conducted their work with dignity, compassion and the utmost professionalism.
“While they will say they were just doing their job, it has been an extremely difficult one.”
Police say it is likely that a safety cordon will be in place for at least one more week and the inbound lane of Hinckley Road, from its junction with Woodville Road, will remain closed for the time being.