House explosion that killed mother with ‘heart of gold’ was caused by ‘accidental’ gas leak

Friends paid tribute to grandmother who was the ‘life and soul of the party’ after tragedy

West Midlands Fire Service confirm woman has died after gas explosion in house

A gas explosion that destroyed a terraced house and killed a 79-year-old grandmother was caused by an accidental gas leak in the home’s pipework, investigators have found.

Doreen Rees-Bibb died in the blast on Dulwich Road, Birmingham, on Sunday evening, while her partner and the owner of the house David Murphy was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

The cause of the fatal explosion was determined to have most likely been 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.

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

Investigations at the scene are over but the HSE said it was continuing to look at whether any work-related activities contributed towards the incident.

The local community was left distraught by the incident. After the explosion neighbours rushed to the house and were able to pull Mr Murphy from the wreckage but were too late to save Ms Rees-Bibb.

Neighbours said Doreen Rees-Bibb was ‘full of warmth and love’

Many paid tribute to their late neighbour, who was described as “the life and soul of the party”.

“She was full of warmth and love, and she had a heart of pure gold. We are all distraught. She was almost 80 but she was still full of life” one neighbour told The Sun.

Another, Sidney Pritchett, who rushed to the scene, told The Independent of his guilt at not being able to save Rees-Bibb.

“It’s bittersweet knowing we saved him but she was still in there and we couldn’t help her. I still feel guilty we couldn’t get her out,” he said.

He detailed the rescue effort: “It was a massive scramble. There was a sink, mattresses, cabinets in the garden and everybody was pulling sinks and everything trying to get to him.

“The back garden was just a massive pile of bricks and we were just digging out trying to get wherever we could because we could see the gentleman and there were some cuts to his head but he was conscious.

“I just grabbed a mattress and dragged it through the hedge to the next garden and four lads carried him through. We had to pull the hedge apart to get him out.

Fatal blast destroyed one house and damaged five others

“We put him as far away as we could in case the house exploded again.”

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

Twenty-one residents were evacuated from their homes following the explosion and a handful of people were treated at the scene for minor wounds.

A total of six properties were directly hit by the blast.

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