4:30pm Sunday 15th April 2012
THE young son of late union chief Geoff Waterfield has relit the blast furnace his father fought to save.
At just after 4.30pm, Wills Waterfield was given the honour of completing his father's work and officially restarted steelmaking on Teesside.
Mr Waterfield died aged just 43 in August last year after leading the efforts to have the former Teesside Cast Products plant at Redcar reopened following its mothballing in 2010.
Wills and his mother, Sheryl Petite, were among a host of people who gathered for the ceremony.
The 11-year-old said: "It was a real honour and I'm sure my dad would've been very proud of me."
Ms Petit added: "I'm sure Geoff is looking down on us today and would be very proud of all of the efforts that people have put in."
Win Viriyaprapaikit, president of the plant's new Thai owners, Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) was present today, along with SSI UK's chief executive Phil Dryden, and operations director Cornelius Louwrens.
Mr Viriyaprapaikit said: "This is a very proud day for us in SSI and for me personally. I believe that the investment we have made at Teesside will result in a very successful business which will benefit all of the stakeholders involved, including the local community and employees for generations to come."
Mr Dryden said: "I would like to pay tribute to all those who have made this day possible, including the stakeholders for their investment and the people who have worked so hard on the restart project.
"We now look forward with confidence to resuming the long tradition of steelmaking on Teesside and establishing SSI UK as world class steelmaker."
Today marks an historic day on Teesside following the mothballing of the plant with the loss of 1,000 jobs in 2010.
Production was halted after a consortium of customers withdrew from a ten-year supply agreement.
The mothballing marked the end of an industry that had spanned 160 years on Teesside.
However workers, their families, management and union leaders refused to accept the closure and campaigned to find a buyer.
Their efforts, including a Save Our Steel march in Redcar, attracted the interest of SSI, who agreed to buy the facility in December 2011 for about £300m.
A succession of problems including adverse weather, union action and the sheer scale of the project hampered efforts to fire up the blast furnace, but the hard work came to an end today, with the resurgence of Teesside's steelmaking.
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