Haxby house explosion – the cause is finally revealed

Flashback to February 2016: the rubble of the house on Springwood, Haxby. Photograph: Nigel Holland
6 May 2016 @ 3.47 pm
| News

No one was to blame for the explosion which killed one man and reduced his house to rubble, the official investigation has concluded.

The investigation into the gas blast at the house in Springwood, Haxby, on February 19, in which resident Paul Wilmott sadly died, reported its results on Friday (May 6).

North Yorkshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) probed the cause of the terrible devastation.

They have found that there is no evidence of any criminality or breaches of health and safety law that require further investigation.

No further action will be taken by either organisation.

A report will be passed to the coroner for the inquest into Mr Wilmott’s death, which will be held at a later date.

Sequence of events

Rubble: All that was left of the house in Springwood, Haxby. Photograph: Nigel Holland
Rubble: All that was left of the house in Springwood, Haxby. Photograph: Nigel Holland

A sequence of events led to the gas leak and fatal explosion. This is what investigators say happened:

  • The explosion resulted from the fracture of a gas pipe buried in the property’s concrete floor. This resulted in an uncontrolled gas escape which ignited, causing the explosion.
  • The copper pipe was installed when the property was constructed in the early 1970s. Whilst it was not protected in anyway, it was installed in accordance with the standards of the day.
  • No evidence was found of recent gas work at the property or interference with the pipe that could have affected its integrity.
  • The pipe showed evidence of corrosion over a long period of time. The pipe fractured at the point where two different concrete slabs which formed the floor of the property met.
  • There is evidence that the two slabs had moved, placing unsustainable forces on the pipe. Bad weather prior to the explosion had resulted in the ground surrounding the property becoming waterlogged. This could have led to ground movement causing the floor slabs to move.

Detective Chief Inspector Allan Harder, who led the North Yorkshire Police investigation, said:

While it was a very unusual set of circumstances that led to this tragic incident, it is important that residents know what caused the explosion and that they can make an informed decision about what to do next, based on the advice from Gas Safe Register (see below).

Our thoughts remain with the family of Paul Wilmott who continue to receive support from specially trained police officers.

Paul Wilmott, who died in the explosion
Paul Wilmott, who died in the explosion

Safety advice

Firefighters and engineers examine the damage to one of the neighbouring houses. Photograph: Jack Gevertz
Firefighters and engineers examine the damage to one of the neighbouring houses. Photograph: Jack Gevertz

As a result of the investigation, the Gas Safe Register has issued this advice to residents.

Gas pipework buried in concrete does not generally pose a significant risk

This was a very unusual type of failure, caused by a combination of an unprotected pipe buried in the concrete floor, high ground moisture and resultant ground movement.

However we understand that local residents may be concerned. They may wish to consider contacting a local gas safe registered gas engineer to undertake a safety check of the gas pipework and appliances at their property – and to take their advice on what course of action is appropriate.

It is very important that a registered engineer is used as they are the only ones legally permitted to work on gas. The Gas Safe Register will be contacting registered engineers in the Haxby area to advise them on how to support residents. Contact details of registered engineers can be found on the Gas Safe Register’s website: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/find-an-engineer/ or by phoning 0800 408 5500.

If you are a concerned tenant, your landlord has a legal duty to ensure that the pipework and appliances in your home are safe. Ask to see a copy of your landlord’s latest gas safety certificate.