Six hurt as gas blast destroys Gateshead home
A suspected gas explosion injured six people, including three police officers.
One of the officers suffered serious burns to his face in the blast which ripped the roof and front off the single-storey home.
The six, who also included a paramedic, a gas engineer and the elderly occupant of the house, were treated in hospital after the explosion shortly before 5.30pm yesterday.
Debris from the blast, including glass, roofing materials and the man's curtains, was thrown up for 60ft on to a green in front of the property above the River Tyne in Marian Court, Gateshead.
The Health and Safety Executive was leading an investigation into the explosion, Northumbria Police said.
Superintendent Dave Byrne said: "The house has been completely destroyed.
"It has been a sizeable force that has caused the damage."
Officers were met with a strong smell of gas when they arrived, he said, after concerns were raised for the safety of the man in the house.
Police were attending with an engineer and paramedics were on stand-by after a strong smell of gas was reported in the area.
The elderly occupant of the house was being led away by a paramedic wearing protective gear when the blast occurred.
The paramedic shielded the pensioner from the worst of the blast force, a North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) spokesman said.
Three police officers who had got the man out of the small property were hit by the explosion, as was a gas engineer.
All six were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for treatment.
The NEAS spokesman said: "There were three police officers injured, two of whom have burns to the head and forearms, and one of them has more severe burns to his face and is in a more serious condition.
"The gas engineer had minor burns."
The officers, paramedic, engineer and elderly resident were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for treatment.
Northumbria Police said the injuries were not life-threatening and the injured officers' families have been informed.
Mr Byrne could not be sure yet where the officers were when the explosion happened.
He said the officers were trained to deal with hazardous situations and members of the public should call the emergency services in similar circumstances.
One resident walking his dog said yesterday: "You cannot believe people have survived that.
"The roof's gone and there's debris everywhere."
The injured paramedic was a member of the hazardous area response team who was trained to deal with non-standard 999 calls.
"It's never nice when one of our own is injured and we are obviously thinking about him," the ambulance spokesman said.
"Quite clearly, his quick actions in evacuating people from the property, and the fact he was wearing protective equipment which allowed him to shield this man from the full force of the blast, have helped lessen the injuries that could have occurred."
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "The Health and Safety Executive have now been informed and will take the lead in this investigation."
There was no fault with the local supply leading up to the explosion, Northern Gas Networks said.
The firm, which operates the gas emergency service for the north east of England, northern Cumbria and most of Yorkshire, said: "Our engineers isolated the gas supply to the properties affected by the gas explosion in Gateshead earlier this evening and have made the area safe.
"We can confirm that the explosion was not the result of any issue with the local gas network.
"We will continue to work with the police as they carry out an investigation."
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