House explosion that killed 79-year-old was ‘accidental’ gas leak, say investigators

A gas explosion which destroyed a terraced house in Birmingham, killing a 79-year-old grandmother, was likely caused by an accidental gas leak in the home’s pipework, an investigation has found.

The cause of the fatal blast in Dulwich Road, Kingstanding, on Sunday night, was determined as an “accidental and inadvertent ignition of a large escape of gas from a joint in the pipework”, police, fire and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) officials said in a statement on Thursday.

The woman who was killed in the blast is understood to be Doreen Rees-Bibb, although formal identification has still to be completed. Her family said their mum had a “heart of pure gold” as they paid tribute to her.

A critically injured man was dug out of the burning rubble of the home by about a dozen members of the public, whose heroic and quick-thinking actions were praised by the emergency services.

He remained in a critical but stable condition in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on Thursday.

In a statement, the HSE, West Midlands Fire Service and West Midlands Police said demolition work had allowed investigators “to safely access and test sections of the property’s internal gas piping”.

The HSE is continuing investigations as to whether any work-related activities contributed towards the incident.

Neighbour Callum Attwood was praised as a “hero” after he reportedly ran into the burning building to rescue someone.

His cousin Reece wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “What happened in Kingstanding tonight is devastating… my cousin saved a life! He’s a hero. I’m so proud of him.

“Get this spread round Twitter!! His actions, Braveness and courage to do what someone else wouldn’t do and put his own life at risk to save a life! Hero CALLUM ATTWOOD.”

Speaking after the blast, one woman living nearby said: “I had just gone into the toilet downstairs and shut the door. The explosion happened as I shut the door.

“Living rooms windows have shattered. There was glass everywhere. The house shook and I fell on the floor, I thought it was an earthquake. I heard a man shout help.”