Massive gas explosions leaving Portsmouth family 'seconds from death' were result of 'failed' gas pipe

MASSIVE gas explosions that left a family ‘seconds away from death’ on New Year’s Day 2021 were the result of a ‘failed’ gas service pipe to the property, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed.

Saturday, 1st January 2022, 4:55 am

But despite finally finding out what caused the series of blasts, a family whose Whale Island Way house in Stamshaw was destroyed think it will be another year before they are able to return home.

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Michael McCormick and his wife, Montse, and son Mark, were evacuated to nearby HMS Excellent along with residents from the street after the eruptions left three houses in ruins with debris catapulted across the area.

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The McCormicks house house destroyed in Whale Island Way in Stamshaw, Portsmouth, on January 3 after a New Year's Day suspected gas explosion forced them to flee. Picture: Ben Fishwick

Miraculously no one was killed or severely injured despite ferocious bangs that some mistook for an enemy attack on the naval base.

The McCormicks were put into a nearby Travelodge before being moved into rented accommodation in Southsea - paid for by their insurance company - where they remain.

HSE investigated what caused the blasts and issued gas operator SGN with actions. ‘The investigation has confirmed that the explosion was caused by the failure of the gas service pipe to the property,’ a spokesman said.

‘HSE issued the gas network with actions to ensure the integrity of the gas services to other properties in Whale Island way.

Michael McCormick with his wife Montse and their son Mark outside their destroyed home in Whale Island Way in Stamshaw, Portsmouth, on January 3 after a New Year's Day suspected gas explosion forced them to flee. Picture: Ben Fishwick

‘HSE is satisfied that these have now been completed by the gas network and, based on current evidence, no further enforcement action is planned.’

In a letter to SGN, seen by The News, HSE wrote: ‘HSE intends to take no further formal action other than the letter which has already been sent to SGN in relation to this matter. The general issues related to the management of gas service integrity.’

The letter went on to say: ‘Initial investigations, including external and internal camera surveys, have revealed the service to the property had fractured and appeared to be subject to substantial external corrosion.

‘The main supplying the property was confirmed as polyethylene and the service was recorded as being replaced in 1984. It appeared that the service had only been partially replaced and the part of the service pipe which had failed appears not to have been replaced at this time.

‘Whilst SGN were not responsible for the network at that point, clearly the service pipe is considered part of the network and is subject to the Pipelines Safety Regulations.’

The letter added that it is the network operator’s ‘duty to ensure that a pipeline is maintained in an efficient state, in effective working order and in good repair’..

Speaking after the investigation, Michael said they were still in limbo and might not be back in the house until Christmas 2022.

‘Things are starting to pick up pace which is good but the house needs to be rebuilt before we can move in and get on with our lives,’ he said.

‘I can understand why progress has been slow. It was obviously dangerous and they had to make sure things were safe. It’s a long winded process. I think we’ll be lucky to be back in before Christmas next year.

‘We are dealing with it but it’s not brilliant. At least when it’s re-built the house will pretty much be a new house.

‘When we go back in it will be 100 per cent electric though. I wouldn’t go back there otherwise.’

Michael questioned whether there were widespread issues with gas pipes after saying the explosions were a ‘carbon copy’ to the blast in Nelson Avenue, North End, in October.

‘The explosion in Nelson Avenue is in the same area so it is a bit of a worry,’ he said. ‘It was almost a carbon copy of what happened in Whale Island.

‘We were extremely lucky.’

Tony Wilson, 69, who lives two doors away from the McCormicks’ house, said the situation after the blasts had been a ‘nightmare’ after they were left ‘in the dark’ for months and not offered support.

The resident said pavements were excavated, parking banned and ‘sniffer tests every day’ were actioned.

He also said rats had moved into the empty houses and revealed his home insurance had rocketed by ‘300 per cent’ despite not making a claim.

‘Silence is king. Mental stress and wellbeing for us has been totally ignored,’ Mr Wilson previously said.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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