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50 · Day in the Life

On the morning of the Tinsley blast, I was up at six in the morning the day before to make sure I was on site for seven to check over the towers and install the initiation system. I don’t usually have time for breakfast so I tend to go straight to site and then send someone out to get some sandwiches. In this job, you’re generally eating on the road. Most of the preparation work for Tinsley was completed well in advance. We had done the pre-weakening almost a year ago and, in the run-up to the job itself, we spent about three weeks installing protection around the towers to contain any fly material ejected by the blast. On the day, I only had to

deliver the connectors and detonators and then install the initiation system. But we’d had something of a panic three weeks before the blast, when we were informed that the explosives we were planning to use, and which had been stipulated in all our plans and tests, were out of date. We literally had to trace alternative supplies of this explosive across Europe to ensure the job went ahead as planned. Thankfully, we managed to locate some in Germany and it arrived with just a day or two to spare. I have now completed the implosion of more than 120 of these cooling towers, more than anyone else in the world so I know the processes and sequences required extremely

D & D Autumn 08


John Turner is the explosives operations manager for Robinson and Birdsell Ltd, and the man behind the successful implosion of the Tinsley Towers (see page 22) among many others.

well. I have also been involved with every cooling tower implosion that has ever taken place in Ireland. I even got a mention in a folk song written about one of them: “along came John, and then it was gone”. It was a long working day at Tinsley and we had little time for lunch. The nearby Meadowhall shopping centre had a huge catering facility that was supplying food to the representatives of E.On, Police, utility services, highways etc but we couldn’t get to it; we had to settle for a sandwich and a can of pop again.

The Tinsley job, perhaps more than any other, involved a huge amount of pressure. I had priced and designed the job. The initiation sequence I designed and installed was overseen by someone else to see if I had installed correctly as per my drawing. In addition, we were very aware of the potential cost of failure. At its nearest point, the M1 was just 20 feet away from the towers. The motorway had been insured for £1.6 billion as it was feared that a tower falling on it could cause a domino effect that would require the entire section to be rebuilt. In addition, emergency pumps had been brought in to a nearby sewage station at a cost of around £300,000, just in case the falling towers destroyed the existing power supply to their pumps. As it turned out, the towers fell exactly as planned and not so much as a pebble landed on either the motorway or the sewage works. I am always pleased to see my jobs go to plan and a successful implosion usually gives me a great sense of


But after Tinsley, I was

just a bit fed up. I had been working for about 28 hours straight and, when I got back to my car, I found that I had a puncture that couldn’t be rectified for three days. A bank holiday weekend, and I couldn’t go anywhere.

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