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Cause of Birstall house blast revealed

Credit: BPM Media

An explosion which killed a woman in Birstall was caused by a broken underground pipe, according to the Health and Safety Executive, (HSE).

The HSE told residents last week that the underground gas pipe had been fractured by ground movement and a number of other unspecified factors.

It said the combination of factors was extremely rare, saying in a leaflet sent to residents: “We know of only two such occurrences in the whole of the UK in the post-war era.”

Exactly a year since the explosion the families involved will mark the anniversary at a private gathering.

Janet Jasper, 79, died in hospital as a result of the injuries she suffered when the explosion from next door tore through the home she shared with her husband, John and their son Anthony.

Janet and John Jasper (left) Credit: BPM Media

A man was also injured as the unoccupied property next door was levelled.

A total of 16 homes in the immediate area suffered varying degrees of damage and some were uninhabitable for up to six months.

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed it has concluded its inquiries and sent its report to the office of the Rutland and North Leicestershire coroner.

The coroner’s office said this meant it was now in a position to set a date for an inquest into Mrs Jasper’s death.

The ‘other factors’ cited by the HSE in its message to residents are expected to me made public when the inquest takes place.

Following its meeting with residents last Thursday, the HSE shared some of its experts’ findings in a leaflet which was later delivered to hundreds of homes in the area.

It said:

An investigation has identified the cause was a failed gas pipe with the property.

The pipe was installed in the concrete floor when the house was built in the early 1960s.

However, the pipe failure was not age or corrosion related.

Instead we believe the pipe failed as a result of the ground beneath the concrete floor moving and sinking and affecting the pipe’s integrity.

A number of other factors also contributed and, without them, we don’t believe the incident would have happened.

The gas pipes were installed in accordance with the standards of the time and there is no requirement to move them.

– Health and Safety Executive
Credit: BPM Media

The leaflet advised people to seek advice from a Gas Safety-registered engineer if their homes were of the same design and age and were built by the same construction firm.

However, the leaflet concluded: “Local Gas Safe-registered businesses have been briefed on this investigation but please note, any risk is extremely low.

Speaking about the forthcoming anniversary yesterday, Anthony Jasper, 51, said:

It will be a difficult day. It’s been a difficult year since losing mum.

Dad has moved into a bungalow around the corner and I’m going to be moving into a flat in the new year.

On the anniversary I’ve decided that the I’ll be having a get-together with neighbours.

We are just waiting for the inquest now and the answers to our questions about how and why this happened.”]

– Anthony Jasper, son of Janet Jasper who died
John and Anthony Jasper Credit: BPM Media

Councillor Julian Howe, of Birstall Parish Council, was forced out of his family home for six months while the extensive blast damage was repaired.

Coun Howe said: “People have coped very well in the year since, although it has been difficult. It was a terrible thing that happened.

“It took us six months to get everything back together with our house but it’s only a couple of weeks since the last person moved back into their home.

“Overall, I think the people have been rather resilient and everyone who can move back into their home has done now – but we will always remember that one family lost a loved one.

“We’ve organised a get together for all of us on the day. It will just be an opportunity for us to get together on the anniversary and have a cup of tea and a chat.”