A businessman who blew up his furniture shop, injuring 81 people, and tried to claim £50,000 in insurance has been jailed for 20 years.
Pascal Blasio, 57, caused the “colossal” explosion by opening a gas valve and switching on an electric fire at the Homes in Style store in New Ferry, Wirral.
The resulting blast damaged and destroyed 63 properties, including the dance studio above the shop, at around 9.15pm on Saturday 25 March 2017.
Judge Thomas Teague QC, sentencing Blasio at Liverpool Crown Court, said it was a “remarkable stroke of sheer good fortune” that no-one was killed.
Among the 81 victims of the explosion was 21-year-old Lewis Jones, who suffered a serious brain injury when the blast happened while he was waiting at a bus stop.
Ian Brown, who had been having a meal in Lan’s Chinese restaurant opposite the furniture shop, told the court it felt like a terrorist attack.
“It was a complete scene of devastation and there was complete pandemonium,” he said. ”The air was thick with dust, you couldn’t see.”
Kim Ashwin, co-owner of the Complete Works Performance School above the furniture shop, said that there could have been up to 100 children in the dance studio if the explosion had happened earlier in the day or on any other night of the week.
Blasio was found guilty of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and fraud in relation to an insurance claim for more than £50,000.
Judge Teague told him: “You have exhibited human selfishness in an almost chemically pure state.
“You did not care who else might suffer as long as you could swindle the insurers out of £50,000, money to which you knew perfectly well you had no right.”
Blasio, a grandfather-of-seven from Gillingham, Kent, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for causing the explosion and eight years concurrent for fraud.
At an earlier hearing, gas company CNG pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that gas supply pipes were disconnected and was fined £320,000.
Wirral Council environmental services described the explosion as “probably the most significant disaster that the council and emergency services in the borough had ever faced in peacetime”.
Merseyside Police’s assistant chief constable Natalie Perischine said: “Blasio has brazenly continued to deny his involvement in the explosion which has totally devastated the lives of dozens of people and had a huge and lasting impact on the community of New Ferry.
“I hope that today means the people of New Ferry can now start to draw a line under that night and start to rebuild their lives knowing that Blasio will spend a considerable amount of time paying for his greedy and selfish actions in prison.”
Additional reporting by Press Association
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