Miracle escape from gas blast

The Westport area of Malmesbury was rocked by a large explosion on the afternoon of April 23rd 2007.

The blast was felt the other side of town. For those living close by it was an unbelievable sound, likened by elderly residents to wartime bombing. So the relief and astonishment were great when it was realised that nobody had been seriously hurt.

The explosion occurred in a 300 year old house belonging to Jimmy Brown, a retired musician. He was unaware that there was a gas leak, and when he switched his kettle on he ignited the gas. He was thrown to the ground, but since he was right at the centre everything was blown out away from him. The roof and the outer walls were demolished, but he was able to walk out virtually unharmed.

It was remarkable also that there was no-one passing by at the time.
House destroyed by gas blast
The day after the blast, work starts on stabilising the house
One of the first on the scene was paramedic Ollie Dalton who lived a few doors away. He found Jimmy outside the house, assuming he was a passer-by, and was astonished when he learnt that he had been in the house, he took him to a nearby shop and treated him for superficial injuries and burns, before the ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. His dog also suffered a few burns but was fine after spending a few days being looked after by a local vet.

The cause of the explosion had still not been officially established more than a month later, but the fact that old gas mains were being replaced outside the house does give a clue.

Jimmy is now living in rented accommodation not far from the scene, reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that he is now a local celebrity.

Footnote:   At a public meeting on January 23rd, exactly 9 months after the explosion, officers from the Health and Safety Executive gave an explanation of its cause. The supply to Jimmy's house had been connected correctly, but further along they found another pipe which was assumed to be for the next door property, on the corner of Burnham Road. This was connected, and a check was made inside the house that gas was coming through. What nobody realised was that the house was supplied by a gas main on Burnham Road unaffected by the work going on, and that the pipe that was connected was a redundant one that stopped underneath the Jimmy's kitchen. So gas was flowing freely in and out of that pipe for about an hour before it was ignited.

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