Leicester

Birstall house explosion survivor describes moment wife fatally injured

Gas explosion at house Image copyright PA
Image caption John Jasper's home and the one next door were destroyed in the blast

The widower of a woman killed in a gas explosion has told an inquest there was "an enormous flash and bang" before their bedroom ceiling came down.

John Jasper said he had told a gas company he could smell gas at their home in Birstall, Leicestershire the day before the explosion.

His wife, Janet Jasper, 79, died in hospital the day after their home was destroyed on 11 December 2017.

Giving evidence he said her death could have been avoided with further checks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) previously said the explosion at about 07:30 GMT in Allington Drive was caused by a failed gas pipe in the empty house next door.

'Get me out'

Mr Jasper told the inquest in Loughborough that he and his wife were both in the bedroom at the time and his wife was still in bed, next to the party wall between the properties.

"Suddenly there was an enormous flash and bang," he said.

"The ceiling came down and I was underneath the plasterboard. I could hear my wife shouting and crying 'get me out' but I couldn't move. I was pinned down.

Image caption Mr and Mrs Jasper were married in 1961 and had lived in the house for 56 years

"I managed to make a small hole in the plasterboard and put my fingers through it and heard the firefighters saying 'we've got a body'," he added.

"As I got out I pointed back approximately to where Janet was and said 'my wife is under there, can you get her out?'"

Mr Jasper said the gas engineer had suggested the smell could have come from a water cooler or a nearby sewage works.

"I didn't think it smelt the same, but because he had proved to me I hadn't got a gas leak [I thought] it must be sewage," he said.

"During the night this smell got really strong and really powerful.

"I think in hindsight it could have been avoided if the policies went further than my house."

Image copyright East Midlands Ambulance Service
Image caption Emergency services were called to the blast site just after 07:30 GMT

Cadent engineer Gareth Beeston told the inquest he did not think it necessary to check the adjoining house because he could not detect any traces of gas in the Jaspers' property.

"The skirting boards were checked upstairs and downstairs. There were no readings whatsoever," he said.

"My internal checks would have picked up anything if it had been coming from next door."

He also denied suggesting the smell was sewage.

The inquest continues.

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