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Husband and wife named as victims of explosion and house fire

Published 20/09/2015

Fire and ambulance workers have been called to Riddings in Derbyshire
Fire and ambulance workers have been called to Riddings in Derbyshire

Two people killed in an explosion and house fire in Derbyshire were a husband and wife who lived at the property, police have said.

Fire crews found two bodies in an upstairs bedroom after initially being prevented from entering the couple's home in Riddings, near Alfreton, by the dangerous state of the building.

The families of the victims - named locally as 50-year-old Simon Saxton-Cooper and his wife Shelley, 45 - have been informed of the deaths.

Police are not treating the blaze as suspicious and are attempting to establish whether an explosion or fire reduced parts of the house to rubble.

After the blaze it emerged that a fireman who lived nearby, an off-duty policeman and a neighbour made efforts to reach the couple before the arrival of three fire appliances.

East Midlands Airport firefighter Paul Archer, who lives in an adjoining street, told how he climbed the stairs of the blazing house to search for casualties but was beaten back by intense heat.

Mr Archer, 48, said: "It didn't sound like a massive explosion - it sounded like something big had been dropped."

The father-of-two put on old fire-fighting equipment stored in his garage, including a tunic, a flash-hood and fire-retardant gloves, after the blast at 7.30am.

"The flames started straight away," he said. "One of the neighbours had got a key and they opened the back door. I made my way in shouting 'Can you hear me?' and the downstairs was really clear.

"I got to the bottom of the stairs, shouting again, and made my way up to the top of the stairs.

"By this time the house was pretty well ablaze - the front bedroom door was on fire but I was shouting 'hello, can anyone hear me?'"

Mr Archer also saw flames in a rear bedroom and feared the roof might cave in, eventually leaving the house via the front door as he heard the sirens' of the first fire appliances to arrive.

Speaking after the gas supply was isolated and supports were used to prop up the house, allowing fire crews to locate the bodies, Chief Inspector Steve Pont described the deaths as an "awful tragedy" and offered his sympathies to the victims' relatives.

The senior officer said: "The fire service attended and found the house ablaze.

"They extinguished the flames and then found that the house was not safe enough to enter.

"We've been able to make the house safe and search the property and I can confirm that unfortunately there are two bodies.

"We do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances, however we are in the very early stages of our investigation."

Asked to comment on the possible cause of the fire, Mr Pont said: "There were initial reports of an explosion.

"There is substantial damage to the house. We can't say at the moment whether that's due to an explosion or the fire."

Derbyshire Constabulary said: "The bodies of a man and a woman were found in the bedroom of the house by fire investigators who searched the building.

"The people who died are believed to be a married couple who lived at the house. Their families have been informed but they have not been formally identified."

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