Leicester

Birstall blast widower 'gets flashbacks of wife's cries for help'

Gas explosion at house Image copyright PA
Image caption Two homes wrecked and about 50 were damaged in the blast

A man whose wife died after their house exploded a year ago said he has flashbacks of her crying "get me out" while he was stuck under rubble.

Janet Jasper, 79, died in hospital after the blast, which happened when a cooker spark ignited leaking gas.

About 50 homes in Birstall, Leicestershire, were damaged in the explosion on 11 December 2017.

John Jasper, 81, who had lived with his wife in the house since the 1960s, said it had been the "worst year ever".

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Media captionAerial footage shows Birstall blast wreckage

Mr Jasper said: "When they found me under the plaster board I looked back at what was left of my house and I just couldn't believe I had come out of that house virtually unscathed.

"I realised I'd got nothing. I was devastated. Everything we had lived for - 56 years there - had just gone up in one big bang."

Image caption John Jasper said it was a "nightmare" trying to piece his life back together again "because everything had been destroyed"
Image caption Mr Jasper, pictured with Janet on their wedding day, said it was hard to comprehend one minute having everything, "then suddenly you have nothing at all"

Mr Jasper said the main flashback he had was of his wife calling for help.

"The bit that upset me is the fact that I could hear my wife crying 'get me out, get me out' and I couldn't move. That is the main flashback so I try not to dwell on that."

Image copyright Google and East Midlands Ambulance Service
Image caption The two collapsed houses before and after

Mr and Mrs Jasper's house in Allington Drive and the one next door were both wrecked in the explosion - as well as dozens of others being damaged.

As well as losing his wife, his home and all his belongings, Mr Jasper - who now lives in a bungalow - and his son Anthony have both suffered health problems since.

He said: "It's been pretty bad, complete with having a stroke and recovering from that.

"It's probably been the worst year. Then Anthony has been diagnosed with a lymphoma. It is one thing after the other. It has been an awful year."

Image caption John Jasper said Birstall Parish Council was planning to create a garden of remembrance for Janet
Image caption A "catastrophic failure of an internal gas pipe joint" was the source of the leak

The fire service ruled out a criminal investigation and said they found "a catastrophic failure of an internal gas pipe joint" under the kitchen floor was the source of the leak.

The gas maintenance company Cadent said: "We attended Mr Jasper's home the day before the incident. Our engineer carried out tests using specialist gas detection equipment and based on the results of these tests, no further action was required."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has distributed leaflets to residents explaining that the cause of the blast was a failed gas pipe from the empty house next door to the Jaspers.

"We believe the pipe failed as a result of the ground beneath the concrete floor moving and sinking and affecting the pipe's integrity," it said.

"A number of other factors also contributed, and without them we don't believe the incident would have happened."

In the leaflet, the HSE said the risk of this happening at another house was "extremely low" and it only knows of "two such occurrences in the whole of the UK in the post-war era".

A HSE spokeswoman said their investigation was complete and the coroner had a copy of the report to assist with the inquest, likely to take place during 2019.

Image caption Janet Jasper died in hospital after a cooker spark ignited the explosion

Pat Clafton was the last resident to return to Allington Drive a few weeks ago and said it was "wonderful to be home".

She said: "This is where I have lived for 50 years nearly. The house is different but when I look out of the windows it is the same.

"The house is very different because everything in it has changed - not a lot could be salvaged. But I look out the windows and I am home."

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