May 2004 – International Rescue Corps were called out to help in the search and rescue operations following an explosion at a plastics factory in Glasgow. An 11 strong team was mobilised to the disaster area to assist in the rescue efforts. The team utilised its experience in Urban Search and Rescue to help locate the people suspected missing in the rubble by using its specialist equipment.

Tunnelling into basement area to search for last female survivor. Alistair Brown.

Drawing of site

The start of tunnelling into basement area to search for last female survivor. Derek Jolly, Anne Marie Macdonald and Willie McMartin.
In The News - November 2004

Four International Rescue Corps members were invited to an award ceremony in Downing Street on November 11th; this followed the Corps’ part in the search and rescue efforts following the Stockline factory explosion in May.

Press Report Below

Four members of the International Rescue Corps were today honoured at the Vodafone Life Savers Awards for their bravery in saving the life of a woman buried underneath the rubble after the horrific explosion at the Glasgow Stockline plastic factory in May 2004. John Anderson from Fraserburgh, Derek Jolly from Dunfermline, Davy Dawson and Anne-Marie McDonald from Grangemouth joined 17 other National Life Savers at a special Downing Street reception held by Prime Minister Tony Blair, before going on to a glittering event at London’s Savoy, hosted by Gaby Roslin and Nick Ross. They received their award before a 300-strong star-studded audience including Carol Smillie, Claire Sweeney, Fern Britton, Philip Schofield, Simon Weston, Martin Kemp, Jodie Marsh and Daniella Westbrook.

Speaking at No.10, Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

 “Bravery in the face of adversity requires a huge strength of will and we should all be eternally grateful for those who selflessly put others before themselves. “Their fortitude is something that must never be undervalued and they are a true asset to this proud nation.”

The explosion that ripped through the Stockline plastic factory in Glasgow killing nine people was one of Britain’s worst disasters in 2004. Minutes after the blast, emergency services rushed to the horrific scene and began the battle to save those trapped under tons of smouldering rubble. Many became heroes that day, amongst them, men and women working for the International Rescue Corps – a group of specialist volunteers who remain constantly on standby – ready to answer the call for help when disaster strikes and lives are at risk.

The scene that confronted IRC team members John Anderson, Davy Dawson, Derek Jolly and Anne-Marie McDonald when they arrived at the Glasgow factory was one of total devastation – and disbelief that anyone might still be alive. Moreover, wrecked parts of the building were still in danger of collapsing and much of the rubble was unstable.

The team were quickly alerted that sounds had been heard coming from deep inside the wreckage and immediately set about tunnelling their way through the smashed beams and concrete, in a desperate race against time. This kind of dangerous and gruelling tunnelling has been described as ‘polo-minting’ – where only the smallest space is available to squeeze through, inch by inch. And the slightest false move can send tons of debris crashing down.

Anne-Marie McDonald had managed to tunnel her way through 50-feet of twisted metalwork, dust and fallen brick. Her journey in the pitch blackness, with only her helmet light to guide her, had been agonisingly slow. Pausing for breath, Anne-Marie suddenly heard a cry for help and realised she was underneath a woman trapped by her legs. Unable to pull her back along the tunnel, Anne-Marie, now joined by the rest of the team, called on other helpers to clear the rubble from above. But, just as they started, the injured woman began to slip deeper into the debris. Anne-Marie and the three men managed to grab her from below – desperately holding onto her hips while other workers attempted to free her from above – a task made even more harrowing because first they had to remove a body – one of the woman’s work colleagues. But the perseverance of the IRC team and the emergency services paid off. And, with a great cry of relief from everyone involved, the injured woman was gently lifted onto a stretcher and rushed to hospital.

The Life Savers awards – a national search for Britain’s most inspiring rescue stories – were launched in April by Vodafone UK to uncover unsung heroes who have saved a life in extraordinary circumstances.

As the build up to the awards ceremony took place on 11th November, four of our group members were interviewed on “This Morning” shown on ITV on 21st October. Also shown was a re-enactment of our involvement in a rescue at the Stockline factory explosion that took place in May this year. The Corps played a part in the rescue and helped members of the Fire brigade to successfully release the woman who was trapped. It is also important to remember that several other organisations such as other rescue teams, charities, community workers and local volunteers also played a vital part at this disaster. This teamwork undoubtedly saved lives.

IRC & Fire Brigade working on roof to recover female casualty.

Searching for the last female survivor
Tunnelling into basement area. John Anderson

Fire Service and IRC looking for casualties and bodies.

Wednesday 12th May 2004 – 14:30

The initial 11 member team (comprising members from the IRC Scottish Region) worked at the site in from around 5pm yesterday until the early hours of this morning and were involved in at least one successful rescue.
They were relieved by a second IRC team (from the IRC Northern Region) this morning. 

Following a rest, the original team resumed working on site.

We are currently advised of 7 confirmed fatalities and 41 injured. 

IRC anticipate rescue activities will continue for at least a further 24 hours.

Thursday 13th May 2004 – 16:00

A total of 20 IRC members involved in the search and rescue operations at Maryhill have now been stood down and are returning to their homes across the country.


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