John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-134234009

Poignant memorial service to Peterborough firefighter killed in Fengate explosion 30 years ago

Three decades after a Peterborough firefighter paid the ultimate price in the line of duty, friends, family and colleagues came together to remember the man - and unveil a lasting memorial to him.

John Humphries, a proud member of Blue Watch at Stanground Fire Station, was one of the first firefighters on scene when a lorry carrying fireworks exploded in Fengate, Peterborough on the morning of March 22 1989. He was tackling the fire in the van when the explosion happened, and he was struck by shrapnel at 9.45am. More than 100 other people were injured, while other firefighters were treated for post-incident traumatic stress as a result. Today (Friday, March 22) dozens of people - some who knew John, some who were at the scene when the van exploded, and some firefighters who serve residents in Peterborough today - gathered in Bishop’s Gardens in the city for an emotional service, and to see a new red plaque unveiled for John. The event started with a parade from The Town Hall, led by standard bearers from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and The Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU). They were joined at the front of the parade by a piper, members of John’s family and Mayor of Peterborough cllr Chris Ash. They march past fire engines parked outside the Town Hall and over to the park. Firefighter Nicola Barlow, who organised the event, opened the service and introduced speakers, including Mick Wrack, general secretary of the FBU who spoke about the sacrifices made by fire crews every day - and the importance of learning lessons when there were tragedies. Wreathes were laid by the Mayor, the FBU and Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, before the plaque was revealed. Speaking after the service, Ray McDonnell, who worked with John, said: “We got the first call at 9.36am. I was in my office when I heard a bang. I thought someone had slammed the door. “When I got to the scene, I saw the ambulance officer. I asked what had happened and he said ‘you don’t know, do you?’ John was a big part of the watch. He was a family man. It was a small watch, but we were a close knit group. “If he is looking down from above, I’m sure he would be proud today.” Mr McDonnell said firefighters and their families had been hugely affected by what had happened 30 years ago. He said: “The aftermath was horrible. Mums, wives and girlfriends didn’t want their men to go to work because it could have happened again. “It could still happen again. It might not be in this county, but it will happen again.”

John Humphries

1. John Humphries Memorial Service

John Humphries
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John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-134128009

2. John Humphries Memorial Service

John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-134128009
Midlands
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John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-134223009

3. John Humphries Memorial Service

John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-134223009
Midlands
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John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-133542009

4. John Humphries Memorial Service

John Humphries memorial plaque unveiling at Bishop's Gardens. EMN-190322-133542009
Midlands
Buy a Photo
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