June 23 (UPI) -- London police said Friday they are considering manslaughter charges in the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire in which at least 79 people died.
The 24-story apartment building was quickly engulfed in flames, and investigators have focused on decorative siding, known as cladding as the potential cause. Its polyethylene and aluminum composition may have hastened the spread of the fire.
Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormick of the Metropolitan Police, which is leading the investigation, said the fire started with an apartment refrigerator and was not deliberately set. She added that investigators will try to determine if the cladding was illegally installed. The material used in the cladding is banned in the United States and cannot be installed higher than 40 feet, the limit of most fire fighters' ladders, in some areas of Europe. The manufacturer, U.S.-based Arconic, advises that the material should not be used above 32 feet.
McCormick also said the building's insulation material is under analysis.
"Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the tests started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests," she said.
Britain enacted a corporate manslaughter law in 2007 and has seen 15 guilty verdicts and three acquittals since, with one case yet to go to trial. Fines ranging from $63,600 to $890,000 have been assessed. McCormick said that documents regarding Grenfell Tower have been seized from several businesses but no one has been questioned thus far.
"We will identify and investigate any criminal offence and, of course, given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations. We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards, we are looking at every health and safety and fire safety offences and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower," she added.