'Devastated' gas worker comes forward

The burning remains of the Marble Court house. PHOTO: JAMES LOOYER
The burning remains of the Marble Court house. PHOTO: JAMES LOOYER
A gas contractor who worked on a Christchurch house just one day before it exploded arrived at the chaotic scene yesterday and made himself known to police officers.

The gas worker spoke to first responders at the scene and voluntarily made himself known, suggesting that police or fire investigators might want to talk to him.

He was devastated by what happened, sources have told the Herald.

It's believed the residents of the Northwood home were having trouble with their gas fire.

Six people were injured in the gas explosion, which caused a blast so big it registered as a magnitude 2 earthquake.

The blast at 10.14am yesterday destroyed the house and flung debris across the neighbourhood. Emergency services at the scene said it was lucky no one was killed.

This morning, one person was in a critical condition and three people were in a stable condition in Christchurch Hospital. Another patient had been taken to Middlemore Hospital, where there is a serious burns unit, and another had been discharged.

Frantic neighbours and passersby helped drag the survivors out of the debris.

They reported the victims had burns, cuts, scratches, and bruises and were in a total state of shock.

Neighbour Bradley Culver was having a cup of coffee and watching the Open Championship golf on TV with his wife when the explosion happened.

The former police officer ran outside and saw a neighbour's house completely destroyed.

He came to the trapped survivors' rescue.

They were stunned, he said, hardly able to talk.

"I am surprised nobody died [instantly]," Culver said.

"As a former police officer I've seen a lot in my days, but I've never seen anything like that."

The blast sent roof tiles, glass, wood fragments and pink insulation material flying into the air and raining down across several streets.

The Marble Court house in the Christchurch suburb of Northwood destroyed in an explosion...
The Marble Court house in the Christchurch suburb of Northwood destroyed in an explosion yesterday morning..PHOTO: ALEX BURTON
The property where the explosion happened is flattened and fire officials say six other properties have suffered major damage, with another six still unsafe.

Cordons continue to be in place around the 12 properties while scene examinations take place.

"The house is matchsticks. It's totally blown apart," Styx Mill Country Club worker Tom White said.

Fire and Emergency area commander Dave Stackhouse said all of Northwood was connected to piped gas, but at this stage it was not clear how there had been a leak.

"We've got our gas experts having a look at that," he said.

"Once we've got the scene safe, we'll look at what's caused this and carry out an investigation with police and WorkSafe."

Stackhouse said it was "probably lucky" the house inhabitants were close to the source of explosion when it happened.

"Often with these types of things it's the blast wave that can actually kill people further away from the actual radius of the initial explosion," he said.

"So I guess we are lucky that we are not looking at multiple fatalities here."

It remains unclear when residents of the affected area may be able to return to their homes. 

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