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Fridge ‘saved life’ of woman as suspected gas blast destroys house

Emergency crews raced to the scene at around 8.50am after the blast left debris strewn across the road.

A mother survived a suspected gas blast which flattened one half of a semi and wrecked the other because a fridge fell on her, a relative said.

Susan Shepherd was pulled from the rubble of her home in Ryhope, Sunderland, by the emergency services following the explosion around 8.50am on Friday.

Remarkably, she was the only casualty and was being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for burns.

Her sister Tracy Tia Judson said Ms Shepherd was able to talk in the ambulance, having miraculously survived the major blast which sent roof tiles flying and shot the back door more than 20 metres down the back garden and over a fence.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Judson said: “The fridge fell on top of her and saved her life, she’s absolutely fine under the circumstances, she’s got minor burns to her back, face and arms and her hip might need stitching.”

In an earlier public post, she said there must be a God as “How the hell can anyone survive that explosion”.

Ms Shepherd’s daughter was with her father at the time of the blast, the sister said.

People living in Rosslyn Avenue praised the rapid response by the emergency services.

The area was quickly flooded with police, fire crews and paramedics and the air ambulance was also at the scene.

Gas engineers were also there, along with search specialists with dogs to make sure there were no other casualties trapped.

It was understood there was no injuries from the other half of the semi which remained standing but appeared very badly damaged.

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A Great North Air Ambulance arrives at the scene (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Locals were quick to offer help with people wanting to donate toys and clothes and they set up an online fundraising page.

Neighbour Tracey Pounder, 51, said: “I heard an almighty bang. I went upstairs and you could see dust rising.

“Half of the semi has gone and next door is wrecked.

“I came down to see what was happening and it is a complete shock.”

Sean Hughes, 40, heard the explosion more than a mile away.

He said: “I saw the window move and the house shook.”

The cause of the blast is not yet known but Northumbria Police said said there was “nothing to indicate at this time that this is linked to terrorism”.

Fire crews arriving at the scene took risks to enter the flattened property and did a “cracking job” assisted by ambulance crews, a senior officer said.

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The scene in Rosslyn Avenue (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Bill Forster, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The walls of the building have collapsed and the upper sections of the building have come down and the lady was trapped beneath that rubble.”

Northumbria Police said the blast was caused by a gas explosion.

A spokesman said: “It is now understood that the incident occurred as a result of a gas explosion and there was no third party involvement.”

The Great North Air Ambulance Service said its crew members accompanied a patient in her 50s to hospital when she was driven by paramedics.

It said she suffered “life-threatening” burns and was stable when she arrived at hospital.

Police said agencies were working hard to enable people to get back into their properties.

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