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Man killed in suspected gas explosion near York named

Published 19/02/2016

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Rob Varley, of a house in Haxby, near York, destroyed by an explosion.
Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Rob Varley, of a house in Haxby, near York, destroyed by an explosion.
Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Rob Varley, of a house in Haxby, near York, destroyed by an explosion.
A house in Haxby, near York, destroyed by an explosion. Credit: Rob Varley

More than a dozen houses have been damaged in an explosion that claimed the life of a man in Haxby, near York, police said.

A 63-year-old man named locally as Paul Wilmott died after a suspected gas explosion obliterated the house on Springwood on Friday morning.

Inspector Steve Breen of North Yorkshire Police told reporters at the scene the man's next of kin have been informed and officers are supporting members of his family.

He said it is an isolated incident, there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances, and a gas explosion is thought to be the cause.

Inspector Breen said: "We are grateful of the support and patience of residents here, because there has been a great deal of disturbance in the street."

The man's body has now been recovered from the home destroyed in the blast. Police said that to the best of their knowledge there was only one person at the address. Formal identification is yet to take place.

A cordon around the affected area is expected to be lifted soon.

Inspector Breen said the affected detached property had been completely destroyed, and that houses either side had been "very, very badly damaged".

He added: "Houses across the road have suffered glass damage - a dozen or more properties have also been damaged.

"We urge residents to contact their insurance companies and secure their premises."

He said they have been working with structural engineers to establish the extent of the destruction to surrounding homes.

"We can reassure the public that there is no ongoing danger, no ongoing threat, the scene has now been made safe - but it has been a lot of hard work through the fire service, ambulance service and the utility companies," he said.

A red and white striped cordon remains around the site of the destroyed house, with tiles blown off the roof of the house next door.

Officers have been working with Northern Gas Networks to investigate the possible cause of the incident - the electricity board have also switched off power within a 200-metre (650ft) radius of the incident.

A range of emergency services were called to the detached building this morning. A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police confirmed they were called to the scene at around 7.30am.

More than 30 firefighters were also deployed - working to extinguish several small blazes on arrival before conducting a search of the scene.

The urban search and rescue team are also in attendance as well as Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, who checked over two further people, although they did not require hospital treatment.

Windows in the neighbouring houses in the leafy residential cul-de-sac were blown out and debris scattered across the road and gardens.

Neighbours said the blast was heard across the area this morning.

The explosion sounded like a crash, one local said.

The man, who did not wish to be named, was around 150 yards (450ft) away at the time and described the loud bang which he said had "flattened" the property and damaged others nearby.

"The house has been completely flattened. It sounded as if a bus or something had crashed into a house, or like an aeroplane crash," he told the Press Association.

"All the properties adjacent to the one that's blown up have got damaged windows and garages."

A neighbour said she felt the explosion from a street away.

She said: "There was a tremendous bang this morning. It shook the bed and the whole house."

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

Other local residents also reported their houses were shaken by the blast, which some thought was an earthquake.

Sophie Pea tweeted: "Wtf I swear something just exploded in Haxby. My whole house just shook."

Peter Hurst, 30, said his father, David Hurst, lives in one of the neighbouring properties.

"He said he heard a big bang. He can't walk that well so he was really panicking but he's fine, he's shaken up a bit. The windows in his house have all gone." Dr Hurst said his father did not know his neighbours well.

Councillor Tony Richardson said: "At approximately 7.25am a loud bang was heard by everyone in the immediate area and the property, number 20, exploded for some reason, we believe it may have been gas.

"At the present time, it's just a pile of rubble. Unfortunately, there's a lot of damage. The properties, one on each side, are pretty badly damaged.

"We've got fire, police and gas and electric board here to ensure everything's safe so an investigation can be carried out."

Mr Richardson said there was no risk to any other properties in the area.

He said: "The families on each side have been evacuated. They're safe and, as far as I know, they've not been injured."

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