Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Family-of-five recovering from gas cooker explosion

A woman and four children are recovering from injuries they sustained in a gas explosion at their home in Barcroft Park, Newry on Monday evening last.

The incident occurred shortly before 6.30pm as the 34-year-old mother was preparing the evening meal when a fault with a gas cooker caused it to explode.  She sustained a burn to her hand while her children – three boys aged 12, 10 and 6 and an eight-year-old girl – were also injured.  All had suffered burns to the face but are not thought to be “deep-seated” injuries.

Two of the children received treatment in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children while their mother was admitted to the Ulster Hospital.  The remaining children were discharged from hospital later that night.

Two appliances and 11 firefighters were tasked to the scene and a spokesperson for the Fire Service said when fire crews arrived around five minutes after the initial call, those in the house had taken refuge in a neighbour’s home, describing them as “walking wounded”.

Group Commander Max Joyce revealed a faulty gas appliance is thought to have caused the explosion, adding that when fire crews arrived there was no fire but they found signs of a “small explosion” in the kitchen.

Regarding the situation, he said: “You can’t mess about with gas. There are cases of leaks causing whole buildings to be engulfed in flames and destroyed so it could have been quite serious and I think we were very lucky on this occasion.

Neighbour Darren Thompson, who is chairperson of the Barcroft Community Association, says the family is lucky to have escaped more serious injury.

Describing the incident, Mr Thompson said: “It appears there was a small explosion on a gas cooker which caused damage to the kitchen area.  A neighbour contacted the emergency services and the Fire Service were at the scene within minutes.  Whilst the young mother and her four children received burns, they were lucky to escape any life-threatening injuries.”

Praising the prompt actions of the Fire Service, he added: “The ambulance service was unable to get to the scene on time and the Fire Service took the injured to nearby Daisy Hill Hospital.

“The Fire Service deserve the highest praise for their speedy reaction and professionalism. The officers in attendance had the situation under control quickly,” he said, adding his best wishes to the family a speedy recovery.

Commenting on the incident, Newry Sinn Fein councillor Liz Kimmins claimed “nearly an hour” had passed before ambulance crews arrived, at which time the injured had already been transferred to hospital.

“This has caused great concern as delays can have serious consequences,” she said.

Responding to the claim, however, a spokesperson for NI Ambulance Service (NIAS) said ambulances were dispatched from Armagh and Craigavon as there was none available at Daisy Hill.  He revealed that a retained firefighter at the scene of the explosion was also a trained NIAS paramedic and, liaising with both emergency services, was tasked with transporting the patients to hospital in Fire Service vehicles.   This, the spokesperson said, was appropriate given the close proximity of Daisy Hill Hospital.