York & North Yorkshire

Haxby house 'gas blast': Man, 63, dies

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Media captionAerial footage shows Haxby house explosion devastation

A man died in a huge explosion, believed to be a gas blast, that destroyed a house in North Yorkshire.

Police believe the victim, named locally as Paul Wilmott, 63, was the resident of the detached property in Haxby, near York.

Only a pile of rubble remains where the house once stood. About 12 nearby homes were also damaged, police said.

Neighbour Brett Duncan, who was one of the first on the scene, said: "It was like an aeroplane had hit the house."

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Media captionDan Johnson : "There is very little left that is recognisable"

'Debris across road'

Insp Steve Breen, from North Yorkshire Police, said: "I have to confirm there has been one casualty, a 63-year-old man found dead in the debris.

"The identity is not confirmed as yet but we think we know who he is and we are currently speaking with his family, trying to console them."

He said the cause of the explosion in Springwood, Haxby, which happened at about 07:30 GMT, was still under investigation but was not thought to be suspicious and was being treated as an accident.

Image caption Only a pile of debris remains where the detached house once stood

"What we found was a house completely demolished, with debris strewn across the road and gardens, and substantial damage to neighbouring properties," Insp Breen added.

He said the force was working with structural engineers to access damage to neighbouring properties but expected to lift the cordon and allow people to return to their homes later on Friday afternoon.

"Hopefully, we can help people get back to some degree of normality but for some people, whose houses have been dreadfully badly damaged, that will take some time," he said.

Stuart Simpson, from North Yorkshire Fire Service, said his officers' focus had been on ensuring the safety of neighbouring properties.

'Garage gone'

"It's literally a pile of rubble at the moment. The actual property yes, it's a dangerous site to be working on, but on the actual property there's no further risk of collapse on that one.

"It's the buildings either side that we're concerned with. It has all the signs of a gas explosion but we just can't confirm that until we get the investigation under way."

Peter Hurst, whose father lives next door to the blast site, said: "He woke up to a loud bang this morning. All the windows are caved in, the car gone, the garage gone, the back door gone.

Image copyright John Giles/PA
Image caption The blast caused significant damage to neighbouring properties
Image caption Police said properties immediately adjacent to the destroyed house had been very badly damaged

"He is all right but is very shaken up and does not want to talk about things. His bedroom backed on to the house."

Neighbour Brett Duncan said it was a chaotic scene.

"All of the car alarms were sounding, I saw debris across the street. I ran up the street and saw a pile of rubble, it was shocking.

"There was no smoke or fire at that point. Me and another gentleman just shouted for everyone to evacuate the street and that's when the smoke started, it then caught fire."

Paul Foster, who lives about 150 yards (140m) from the scene, said: "There was a massive bang and the whole house shook.

Image copyright Rob Varley
Image caption There were reports of a loud bang at about 07:30 GMT

"I looked out of the window and at first I couldn't see anything, I thought an aircraft could have come down. There was a large plume of smoke coming up."

Properties adjacent to the destroyed house have suffered damaged windows, roofs and garages.

Windows at St Margaret Clitherow Church on Holly Tree Lane and the presbytery are also understood to have been damaged.

Image caption The explosion happened in a quiet residential area in Springwood, Haxby

Marie, who lives nearby, told BBC Radio York: "It was such a large jolt and noise.

"We were living down south when the Buncefield oil storage depot exploded off the M1 and it felt exactly the same, it was just a boom."

Another neighbour reported that the blast sounded "like a bomb going off".

Members of the public are being urged to stay indoors but police say they "do not believe there is a risk to general public".

'Nothing left'

Tony Richardson, a councillor on Haxby Town Council, said: "The house is completely gone.

"At the present time we believe five houses have been evacuated.

"We don't know if other houses need to be evacuated until we know the cause, we are yet to establish that yet."

A rest centre has been established at the nearby Memorial Hall for residents requiring help.

"There's just nothing left," said Rob Varley on Twitter.

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