SIX people – including three police officers – were in a serious condition in hospital last night after a gas explosion.
Officers were called to Marian Court on the Teams estate in Gateshead at 5.29pm yesterday after reports of a smell of gas.
Police entered a bungalow along with a gas engineer and a paramedic who assessed a man they found inside.
Seconds later, a fireball ripped through the tiny home, leaving the resident badly injured. Three officers, the paramedic and the engineer were also hurt.
All six were taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary where their conditions were described last night as serious but not life-threatening, although one officer is believed to have suffered major burns to his face.
Neighbouring homes were evacuated while fire crews launched an investigation into the cause of the blast.
It is believed the man may have been attempting to fit or remove a gas cooker without properly turning off the supply.
Neighbours detected a smell and called Northern Gas Networks who subsequently scrambled police and ambulance staff. Last night residents were still not back in their homes as work was going on to make the area safe.
All that remained of the bungalow was brick walls and the framework of the roof from which tiles had been blown up to 60ft away.
Resident Kevin Briggs, 68, said: “I was sitting in my house and I heard this big bang.
“I looked out and came outside straight away. The house had come down. It had totally collapsed.
“I could see one police officer in uniform, a man, he was kneeling on the ground near to the house.
“I couldn’t tell how badly hurt he was. Then we were sent away to the top of the street but I heard that three police officers were injured.”
Epileptic Mark Richardson, 32, who lives two doors down from the blast house, had to ask a fireman to retrieve his tablets.
“I was really worried because I have to take my medication at regular times,” he said.
“I came home to a scene of chaos and I was really scared. It’s not something you expect.
“I just hope that all the people involved are all right.”
Superintendent Dave Byrne, who is leading the operation into the incident, said investigations would continue today.
“This was a forceful explosion which almost totally destroyed the home, but it could have been a lot worse,” he said.
“We have officers trained for these situations and they showed bravery in what they did.”
A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said that fires had to be extinguished at the property.
He said: “We were called to the scene at 5.45pm, originally to reports of a smell of gas at a property.
“On arrival there was an explosion and five casualties were taken from the building. Five fire crews attended the incident and the gas company disconnected the supply to the street.
“There were a number of fires which had to be extinguished at the property after the explosion.”
North East Ambulance Service confirmed that six people were taken to hospital after the explosion.
The spokesman said: “Our Hazardous Area Response Team were called to the scene due to the nature of the incident.
“On arrival, one of our paramedics led an elderly gentleman out of the property.”
The Health and Safety Executive hasnow been informed and will take the lead in the investigation.