CHEMICALS suggesting alcohol was being produced have been found at the site of an explosion that killed five men and left a sixth in hospital.
The blast happened at the Broadfield Lane Industrial Estate in Boston on Wednesday evening.
It is believed to be the greatest loss of life in a single explosion in Lincolnshire in living memory.
Lincolnshire Police spokesman Superintendent Keith Owen said that evidence discovered so far supported rumours that the site was being used as an illegal vodka distillery.
He said: "What I can confirm is that we have found chemicals on the premises that tend to indicate either the manufacture or production of alcohol.
"It has been a problem in the past. We have obviously run an operation recently with HMRC and trading standards.
"Those people are still involved in this operation to help us try to piece together what happened on Wednesday night.
"All I can tell you at the moment is in that room there are what appear to be the component parts of the manufacturer of an alcoholic drink."
Mr Owen told the Echo that the top priority was to identify the victims of the explosion.
"Let's not forget that five people have tragically lost their lives in this incident and they will all have loved ones wondering where they are," he said
"Our priority at this stage is identifying those men and getting in touch with their families.
"I know there is a lot of speculation at the moment and we are not trying to ignore that, but the investigation process we are going through alongside fire and rescue is very methodical and jumping to any conclusions before all the evidence is examined could jeopardise that investigation."
Police also confirmed that the injured man had been transferred to a specialist burn unit in Birmingham.
Eyewitness Paul Featherstone, who lives next to the industrial estate, said he saw thick smoke billowing out of the unit.
He said: "It was jet black and really thick, I saw it coming out and it filled the sky.
"It is a terrible way for those men to have died. It is an awful thing to have happened in Boston.
"People are saying it was an illegal vodka distillery. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true.
"There have been loads of cases of counterfeit vodka being sold in Boston recently, so it would make a lot of sense.
"Some people have died from drinking vodka that has window cleaner and things like that in it.
"If this was a distillery, it was probably one of many. It might make other people running stills think twice."
In June this year, International Foods in Boston had its alcohol licence revoked for selling counterfeit vodka containing cleaning fluid.
A second shop, Boston Deli in Skirbeck Road, had its licence suspended for three months as a result of the same investigation.
Speaking at the scene shortly after the explosion, county area manager for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Steve Moore said forensic investigations would have to be completed before the cause of the blast was confirmed.
He said: "The police are taking the lead on this investigation and there are forensic officers examining the scene.
"We arrived to find a man outside the unit, he was very badly injured and there was a very fierce blaze that was buckling the roller doors.
"It made progress very difficult but we received information that there were more people inside and firefighters took immediate action and six men went inside with breathing apparatus.
"We discovered the other men and got them out of the unit but, very tragically, they had died."