Birmingham gas explosion: man still critical and investigation identifies cause of blast
Here’s the latest update on the gas explosion in Kingstanding as a vigil in memory of the lady who died is planned for Sunday
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A woman was found dead and a man is in critical condition following an explosion at a house in Dulwich Road, Kingstanding on Sunday night (26 June).
West Midlands Fire Service confirmed that the woman died at the scene of Sunday’s explosion - and a man was taken to hospital after being pulled from the scene by heroic locals.
The man remains in a stable but serious condition in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham as of Friday (1 July). The blast destroyed one house and caused damage to three others.
An investigation into what caused the fatal house explosion in Kingstanding on Sunday (26 June) has now been completed.
It was carried out by West Midlands Fire Service, West Midlands Police and The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
In a statement, the fire service said that the blast was most likely caused by an accidental ignition of a large escape of gas from a joint in the pipework.
Here’s everything we know so far
A statement from the West Midlands Fire Service on Thursday (30 June), read: “We would like to take this opportunity to again extend our sympathies to everyone affected by Sunday night’s events in which, tragically, a woman lost her life.
“The man who was rescued remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
“Extensive investigations at the scene of the explosion are now complete.
“Demolition work yesterday afternoon (28 June) enabled investigators to safely access and test sections of the property’s internal gas piping.
“They have concluded that the explosion was most likely caused by the accidental and inadvertent ignition of a large escape of gas from a joint in the pipework.”
Woman dies in explosion and man critical
A 79-year-old woman was found dead following the explosion and a man remains in a critical condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Four other people were treated for non-threatening minor injuries at the scene.
A total of 21 people were forced to leave their homes after the explosion and eight homes are not yet deemed safe for residents’ return, the fire service has said.
The lady who died has been named locally as grandmother Doreen Rees-Gibb. A vigil is being held at 7pm on Sunday (July 3) - a week on from the blast. A family fun day, called We Live As One, is also scheduled to take place the same day which organisers said would now be a way of saying thank you to people.
A fundraising campaign has been launched by Kingstanding resident Sam Wellings who has set up a Go Fund Me page, which had raised more than £2,365 by Friday morning.
A statement from the fire service on Monday, read: “We’re very sad to confirm that a woman has been found dead at the scene of last night’s explosion in Kingstanding.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with everyone affected. One property has been completely destroyed with three others badly damaged. Cars have also been damaged.
“A man was helped from the property by people at the scene but had suffered very serious injuries. After assessment and treatment at the scene, he was taken on blue lights to the major trauma centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham with the MERIT team travelling with the ambulance. His condition on arrival at hospital was described as life threatening.”
“Four further men have been assessed by ambulance crews for minor conditions but have been discharged at the scene. Members of the Hazardous Area Response Team continue to work with specialist firefighters at the scene.”
A statement from the West Midlands Fire Service on Tuesday, said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with everyone affected by the incident. We’re grateful to members of the local community for their ongoing support and understanding while our work at the scene continues.
“Investigators from West Midlands Fire Service are working closely with West Midlands Police and gas specialists to try to establish why the explosion happened. Members of our Technical Rescue Unit continue to monitor the stability of neighbouring structures, to ensure that the work can be carried out safely.
“They will be carefully excavating areas in the remains of the house, so parts of its gas supply can be accessed and examined. This work needs to be carried out safely, slowly and methodically. As a result, we expect to remain at the scene throughout today (Tues 28 June).
“A 100-metre cordon is still in place and a section of Dulwich Road closed. Some residents have been able to return to their homes within the cordon. However, this has not been possible at eight properties which were either damaged by the explosion or are still without gas.”
Demolition work begins
Demolition work got underway on Wednesday, 29 June at the site of the Kingstanding house explosion on Dulwich Road.
The West Midlands Fire Service confirmed that the work would take days and that it was uncertain how many properties will be affected by the demolition.
One property was reduced to rubble in the blast, while the homes either side were left shattered with windows and doors blown out. Eight homes are uninhabitable: either too badly damaged or without gas.
‘It’s clear that a gas explosion took place’
The explosion saw debris blasted to the other side of the street, neighbouring properties damaged and a tree shredded.
More than 20 people were evacuated nearby and a handful were treated at the scene for minor wounds.
Martin Ward-White, an area commander at West Midlands Fire Service, said it “was clear that a gas explosion had taken place”.
Speaking from the street on Monday, he said: “There was one male casualty who was taken to hospital immediately with life threatening injuries.
“There’s no update on that casualty at this point in time.”
Mr Ward-White said investigators will look into what exactly caused the gas explosion.
West Midlands Police later said that they know it was a gas explosion but are not sure on the cause, which has since been confirmed as a gas explosion caused by an accidental ignition of a large escape of gas from a joint in the pipework.
Cadent Gas statement
After an investigation, gas specialists Cadent confirmed on Wednesday (29 June) that the mains and service pipes in the area did not cause the explosion.
Elliott Nelson, Network Director for Cadent Gas West Midlands, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those impacted and everyone in this close-knit community.
“Since the incident, our engineers have been on site working with the emergency services. It has been difficult for everyone, and I know all the responders are grateful for the support the community has shown. We are aware of some selfless acts of courage and heroism by members of the local community who were first on the scene, which will not be forgotten.
“Following a thorough investigation, we can confirm that the gas mains and service pipes in the area are sound and were not the cause of the incident in Kingstanding. The matter now lies with other agencies for further investigation.
“We would also like to remind people that if you ever smell gas, inside the home or outside, call the national gas emergency service on 0800 111 999* immediately, day or night. Our team is available 24/7, 365 days-a-year to respond to emergencies quickly.”
A ‘number of possible reasons’ for gas explosions
Chris Clarke, a partner at Fire Investigations UK, said there can be a number of causes for gas explosions.
Speaking to BirminghamWorld, he said: “With all of these explosions that we see in the media, people are very quick to assume that it’s caused by the natural gas that’s come into the house through the meter.
“But there are an infinite number of ignitable gases in people’s houses, and I think a lot of people are not aware that nearly every aerosol can, for example, whether it’s hairspray, polish, or deodorant, is also propelled by liquid petroleum gas.
“There’s enough gas in one of those aerosol cans when it’s mixed with the right percentage of air to cause quite a devastating explosion.
“So we’re very quick to assume that explosions we see in the media must be caused by a gas explosion, and it’s either the fault of the gas board or boiler, but there are a mirriad of other ignitable vapours which will react in the same way.”
He added: “The other thing we come across is petrol vapour explosions.
“Petrol is giving off vapours all the time and anything above 40 degrees is giving vapours off, and those vapors are not dissimilar from propane or butane.
“So when mixed correctly with air, they create an explosive atmosphere, and significant explosive atmospheres.”
House boiler needed replacing
The boiler at the house which exploded needed repairs or to be replaced, it has emerged.
The three-bedroom terraced property had recently been sold for £160,000.
It was sold by Birmingham-based Paul Carr Estate Agents and aerial pictures show a red ‘sold’ sign in the rubble.
On the firm’s website, the property’s particulars states: “Boiler requires repair / replacement.”
The description goes on: “A three bedroom terraced in need of some upgrading and offering a competitively priced starting point on the property ladder.
“The lounge floor in the bay requires attention and the property is priced to reflect the amount of potential on offer rear.
“Outside the rear garden has a slabbed patio area leading to the good size lawn, there is a shared side passage and viewing is advised of this majority centrally heated (boiler requires repair / replacement) and double-glazed property.”
Residents describe how they pull man alive from the blast
Residents have described the moment they helped to save a man following the explosion.
They said they clambered past flaming debris and through dust and rubble shortly after the blast to pull an injured man alive from the ruins.
One good samaritan, who declined to give his name, said: “Everyone was watching, the house was on fire, nobody was going in, so we could see a way in.
“So we went in the house, me and about a dozen others.
“There was a guy in the back. We could hear the guy screaming, but he was trapped up against the fridge in the kitchen.
“The dust from the loft insulation was burning around us.
“We managed to get to him and pull him out – I still have his blood on my jeans.
“He ended up coming out on a mattress, but he was saying there was a woman in the house.”
The rescuer added: “His clothes had been blown off. You couldn’t even see him, he was covered in blood.”
He added: “We just went straight through the (front) door, and I thought I went through the house’s door – but it was actually the next door house’s door, because the house door had been destroyed.
“We came out to the back, and then we could hear the man, geezer, screaming, and we dug him out.
“He was in the kitchen, lying flat on the floor, with his back against a fridge or washing machine.
“He was going, ‘Don’t pull me – my legs’, and I said, ‘Mate, we’re going to have to take you out now’.”
Kiera Parkinson, whose boyfriend Callum Attwood was among those who helped at the scene in Birmingham, said: “We’re so proud of literally every single person that risked their lives to go in there and help somebody else.”
Statement from mayor
West Midlands mayor Andy Street has released a statement following the explosion.
Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “A tragic loss of life in Kingstanding following the horrors of yesterday’s explosion.
“Thank you to the emergency services who were on the scene swiftly and responded brilliantly, and also local residents who acted heroically for their neighbours.”
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