Fatal house gas blast victim believed to be 79-year-old woman
A woman who died when a gas explosion destroyed a terraced house is believed to be a 79-year-old mother, with investigations into the cause continuing.
The pensioner, understood to be Doreen Rees-Bibb, died after a blast tore through the home in Kingstanding, Birmingham, on Sunday.
A critically injured man was dug out of the burning rubble of the home in Dulwich Road by about a dozen members of the public, whose heroic and quick-thinking actions have been praised by the emergency services.
He remained in critical condition in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on Tuesday.
West Midlands Fire Service said careful excavation of the property was now under way “so parts of its gas supply can be accessed and examined”.
“This work needs to be carried out safely, slowly and methodically,” a brigade spokesman added.
The property was reduced to rubble, while the homes either side were left shattered with windows and doors blown out.
Eight homes are uninhabitable: either too badly damaged or without gas.
Neighbours Natasha and Giorgi Khizanishvili said houses six doors up had been left with “cracks in the ceiling” and around windows.
A family who were driving past in a Mercedes car just as the home exploded escaped without injury.
The damaged remains of the white saloon – its airbags deployed, body panels pock-marked and windows smashed – was left parked a few yards away.
Shortly after the blast, about a dozen people dug by hand through rubble to rescue the seriously injured man, following his cries of “help”, to find his partially buried arm sticking from the debris.
As he was pulled out and carried to safety on a mattress, which had been blown clear of the blast, he told his rescuers there was a woman in the rubble.
However she could not be reached, and was confirmed dead by emergency services early on Monday.
Kelly Monaghan, chief inspector of West Midlands Police, praised the “really heroic actions from members of the community”.
Kiera Parkinson, whose boyfriend Callum Attwood was among those who helped at the scene, said: “We’re so proud of literally every single person that risked their lives to go in there and help somebody else.”
One of the Good Samaritans, who declined to give his name, said he and about “a dozen others” went into the wreckage.
“There was a guy in the back. We could hear the guy screaming, but he was trapped up against the fridge in the kitchen,” he said.
“The dust from the loft insulation was burning around us.
“We managed to get to him and pull him out – I still have his blood on my jeans.
“He ended up coming out on a mattress, but he was saying there was a woman in the house.”
The rescuer said: “His clothes had been blown off. You couldn’t even see him, he was covered in blood.”
He added: “We could hear the man, geezer, screaming, and we dug him out.
“He was in the kitchen, lying flat on the floor, with his back against a fridge or washing machine.
“He was going, ‘Don’t pull me – my legs’, and I said, ‘Mate, we’re going to have to take you out now’.”
Eyewitness Ms Parkinson said she and her boyfriend arrived on the scene shortly after the blast to check in on his mother who lives locally after hearing the “massive bang” at around 8.30pm.
She said: “I just think for most of us in Kingstanding it’s just a day of sadness, because of what has happened – it’s a complete tragedy.
“But we’re so proud of literally every single person that risked their lives to go in there and help somebody else.
“What a community.”
The fire service said it “was clear that a gas explosion had taken place”, and that rumours the property’s boiler had needed replacing before the fire “may form part of the investigation”.
More than 20 people were evacuated nearby and a handful were treated at the scene for minor wounds.
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