Birstall house explosion 'caused by broken pipework'

Gas explosion at house Image copyright PA
Image caption Janet Jasper died when her home and the one next door were destroyed in the blast

A gas explosion which killed a 79-year-old woman was caused by a leak from broken pipework next door, an inquest has heard.

The blast destroyed Janet Jasper's home in Birstall, Leicestershire, and the neighbouring house on 11 December 2017.

The house with the gas leak in Allington Drive was empty at the time as the owner had died.

It was being sold by his family. His son was there the morning of the explosion and was also injured.

In a statement read at Loughborough Coroner's Court, Roger Partridge said he noticed a strong smell when he arrived at the house.

He said he initially attributed it to a nearby sewage farm but as the smell persisted he suspected it was gas.

'Covered in rubble'

He said he remembered lifting the glass hood which covered the cooker hob in the kitchen before the explosion.

"My next memory is being dazed and my vision was blurry," his statement said.

"I was lying down on the kitchen floor in front of the cooker.

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

"I could not move my body. I was covered in rubble. My hands felt as if they were burning and I could not move them."

He was rescued and spent a month in hospital with a collapsed lung and burns to his hands and face.

Forensic scientist, Emma Wilson, said the source of the gas leak was broken pipe work underneath concrete in the hallway.

However, she could not determine the ignition that sparked the explosion and said it could have been a timer switch, cooker ignition or light switch.

Steve Critchlow, from the Health and Safety Executive, said the pipework was examined but he could not say how long it had been damaged.

He said he was "really confident" the ignition had come from the kitchen.

Image caption Mr and Mrs Jasper had lived in their house for 56 years

John Jasper, who was also injured, previously described how his wife, Janet, was in bed when there was "an enormous flash and bang".

He said a gas engineer had been called out a day earlier after he smelt gas but could not find a leak.

Mr Jasper added the tragedy "could have been avoided" if the engineer had carried out the same gas checks next door.

The inquest continues.

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