Relieved Residents Finally Return Home Two Years After Devastating Gas Blast

Expert Lawyers Help Families Get Their Lives Back On Track After Explosion

05.11.2012

A couple and two women whose homes were reduced to rubble in a devastating gas explosion have finally got the keys to their newly rebuilt homes two years after the blast in Salford in which they suffered serious debilitating physical and psychological injuries.

In November 2010 a gas explosion destroyed a row of terraced houses on Merlin Road in Irlam, Greater Manchester, including the home of 74-year-ol Marie Burns, whose house was at the centre of the gas explosion.

The homes of neighbours Sharon Girenti and Shealagh and David Palmer were also badly damaged in the incident which saw people evacuated from 200 homes in neighbouring streets as 40 fire fighters and emergency services fought to save people trapped in their homes, owned by City West Housing Trust.

Marie, Sharon and the Palmer’s instructed serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office to help them with their recovery from the physical injuries and psychological scars caused by the terrible incident which rocked the quiet community.

Irwin Mitchell has been supporting the victims through the last two years as they await the outcome of the Crown Court hearing of gas engineer Paul Kay. Mr Kay, of Slater Street in Warrington, has been charged with breaching Gas Safety Regulations, which he denied when he appeared at Manchester Crown Court in September. A further hearing has been scheduled for April 2013.

Sabrina McCarron, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Marie, Sharon and the Palmer’s, said: “Two years on from this horrific explosion, everyone is still coming to terms with the serious injuries they suffered and the psychological impact of losing their homes and everything they owned.

“I don’t think this is something they will ever forget but it is an important chapter in their journey of recovery to move back into their homes on Merlin Road and to try and focus on the future.

“We will also continue to support them in their quest for justice as we strive to find out why this terrible incident happened and I hope that lessons can be learned to prevent it happening again in future.”

Marie was making her breakfast at home when the blast ripped her home apart and left her fighting for her life. The mum of one spent three weeks in Wythenshaw Hospital and six weeks at Hope Hospital where she was treated for 30 per cent burns and serious lung damage, before attending the Heartly Green care home in Irlam for rehabilitation.

The 75-year-old said: “The past two years have been the most traumatic of my life, something I don’t think I’ll ever get over.
“I have vivid memories of making my breakfast on the day of the explosion, of a deafening bang and then someone sitting me down in the middle of the rubble before an ambulance was called, but after that I don’t remember a thing.

“I was in a coma for three months and when I woke up I had to deal with really painful injuries and the fact I’d lost everything I owned. Everything was destroyed – from family photographs to all my clothes and sentimental things I’d collected over the years. I had to rebuild my life from scratch.

“I had to learn to walk again. I’ve had to come to terms with the horrible facial and emotional scars I suffered. I didn’t even say a word until my birthday on 5 January last year when doctors finally took out the tracheotomy they’d put in to help me breathe.

“It’s such a big milestone to finally be given the keys to my home and I can start to put this all behind me and begin to make new memories here. My parents lived here so this house has always been part of my life. It will never be completely the same but I finally feel content and happy to be back.”

Marie also says she received thousands of ‘get well’ messages while in hospital from across the country, including local schoolchildren. Local MP Barbara Keely also helped Marie find replicas of her dad’s war medals, which she was devastated to lose in the blast.

Sharon, Marie’s best friend, was left homeless by the explosion and although she wasn’t physically hurt, she has suffered frightening flashbacks and bears emotional scars following the incident.

Sharon, a mum of three children and six grandchildren, said: “On the day of the explosion I’d just got out of bed and the whole house shook, the chandeliers and windows shattered and I thought a lorry had smashed into the house. I couldn’t even get out of the front door because it was twisted and wedged shut. I then saw the devastation on my doorstep, particularly to Marie’s house.

“It was so eerily quiet before police and the emergency services arrived. I was hysterical – I thought Marie must have died and be buried under the rubble. Miraculously she was outside her house asking for me to help her find her handbag! It was horrible to see her in such a bad way though, her hair had been burnt off as well as her eyelashes and eyebrows.

“My house suffered such bad structural damage it’s been a long wait to see it refurbished. But I’m so grateful to finally be back home.

“I lost my mum just a few weeks before the explosion. Some of her ashes were buried in my garden under a rose bush and I was traumatised at the thought of leaving her. I will always be grateful to the workman who helped me replant the rose bush in a pot so I could take a little bit of home away with me until I could come back.

“Marie is my best friend and like a second mum to me. I found is very difficult to cope after seeing her so badly injured. Irwin Mitchell have been very supportive through this very difficult time in my life.”

Dave Palmer added: “The explosion has had a massive impact on our lives and although we are now back home things will never be the same again. We don’t feel we can move on properly until we know why and how the gas explosion happened.”