A Northland home owner charged
after a young woman died in a gas explosion has pleaded
guilty to charges relating to the woman's death.
Peter John McLeod, 73, appeared in Whangarei District court
today and admitted charges of undertaking an unauthorised gas
fitting, failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that
gas appliances were safe and completing gas work where not
authorised to do so.
Energy Safety, which is part of WorkSafe NZ, laid the charges
following the death of Lesley Anita Wehi-Jack, 19, who died
in Middlemore Hospital on February 12 last year.
Ms Wehi-Jack was critically injured, suffering burns to 70
per cent of her body, when she entered the Ruakaka house she
was renting in Tamure Dr and a gas appliance exploded. She
had been in the home little over a week at the time. The
force of the explosion rocked neighbouring homes.
A coroner's inquest into Ms Wehi-Jack's death had been due to
get underway today, but has been postponed.
McLeod will be sentenced next month.
Ms Wehi-Jack had just arrived home from work about 8.30pm and
opened the door when the explosion ripped through her house.
Badly burned, she managed to get outside the house where she
was helped by neighbours who doused her with a garden hose.
She was rushed to Northland Base Hospital in a serious
condition but died surrounded by family less than 24 hours
Nearby resident Jill Russell, 79, said she heard "a huge bang
from about a mile away".
She ran outside and saw flames shooting through the roof.
Mrs Russell saw Ms Wehi-Jack outside the house with burns to
her face and her clothes torn, and went to her aid.
"It was terrible," Mrs Russell said.
At the time, specialist fire investigator Craig Bain said the
explosion resulted from a faulty gas appliance in the kitchen
area and called in an energy-safety inspector from Wellington
and a gas-fire investigation specialist from Auckland to help
examine the scene.