A faulty copper gas pipe is suspected to have caused a massive house explosion that killed a great-grandmother.
Doreen Mace, 79, died when the home she was in exploded like a “Hollywood film-esque level of destruction”.
An inquest has now heard that the blast was caused by a “decades-old” faulty copper gas pipe join.
Doreen was a retired pub landlady, originally from Birmingham, and is being remembered as a “once-in-a-lifetime soul”.
When the explosion shook the street, she was in her partner David Murphy’s Dulwich Road, Kingstanding home.
The horror blast, which unfolded on June 26 last year, was described by the coroner as “Hollywood film-esque level of destruction”.
Yesterday morning the inquest’s 11-member jury was shown an image of a “gas pipe separation under (the) floor of (the) living room”.
This separation is thought to have caused the explosion.
The jury was told Doreen’s partner had rung UK gas distribution network Cadent at 8.22pm on the night of the explosion, reporting that he could smell “what he thought was gas”.
David also told the company his gas hob was no longer working, and the meter was “making a noise”.
A call handler told him “not to use any source of ignition, and to ventilate the house,” and that an engineer would arrive “within the hour,” according to the coroner.
The house exploded less than 15 minutes after that phone call.
Neighbors reported a “huge bang” and made multiple 999 calls, the first at 8.38 p.m.
129 Dulwich Road had also been “flattened” and was “completely missing,” according to the police.
The blast was so powerful that it blew roof tiles through the windows of a 114-foot-away leisure center.
While there was only a small fire at first, it quickly grew and searches for Doreen had to be halted for safety reasons.
Her body was later recovered under 3ft of rubble in the lounge at the front of the property.
Her partner David – though suffering “relatively significant injuries” – survived.
He had earlier been rescued by members of the public, who carried him away using a matress.
They had found him under rubble in the kitchen, where he had been protected by a fridge.
‘NATURAL GAS ESCAPING’
Opening the hearing, Birmingham and Solihull Area Coroner James Bennett told the inquest: “Sadly, we reach a point where natural gas is escaping into the property.
“It eventually ignites, causing the explosion.”
It was confirmed by West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Ranj Sangha, in evidence.
He said that multi-agency investigators agreed “the explosion was caused by natural gas escaping from a pipe underneath the lounge floor”.
The coroner also heard that the floorboards in the bay area of the lounge were “bowing” because some of the joists were “rotting”, according to a statement given to the police by David’s son.
The coroner asked: “Is it right the area of floor was bowing was in reality above the gas pipe?”
Mr Sangha replied: “Yes, in close proximity.”
The ex-Birmingham City Council house was nearly 100 years old, with the inquest hearing that the boiler was not working at the time of the blast.
David was selling the property – which had become privately owned in 1981 under a previous occupant – and had accepted an offer.
Estate agent particulars recorded the problem with the floor, accompanied by photos, and the lack of a working boiler.
But, he said, they had not done so.
He continued: “So, at that joint, it was never soldered or welded and, sadly, we reach a point where natural gas is escaping into the property.
“It eventually ignites, causing the explosion.
“It appears Doreen, sadly, was in the lounge at the point of the explosion.”
Jurors also heard from Mr Sangha that David, who was in the kitchen at the back of the house when the blast happened, was found in a void created by a falling fridge, which “seems to have provided him with some cover”.
One Doreen’s granddaughters, Samantha O’Brien, attended the inquest, along with other family members.