UK

Newark Gas Blast Dead Named As Jeanette And Leslie Rourke

20/05/2013 18:17 BST | Updated 20/05/2013 18:19 BST

A man and a woman who died in a suspected gas blast have been named locally as Jeanette and Leslie Rourke.

The pair are thought to have died following the explosion at the terraced house in Newark on Sunday, which has left a second man, believed to be Nicholas Rourke, in hospital.

However a four-month old girl had a miraculous escape, after she was rescued from a neighbouring property, with a woman and a seven-year-old boy, Nottinghamshire Police said.

They were taken to the city's Queen's Medical Centre for treatment and have since been discharged.

Fire crews are working to recover the body of the woman from rubble at the property on Wright Street.

newark blast

More than 100 people were evacuated from nearby homes after the blast

A Nottinghamshire Fire Service spokeswoman confirmed a "controlled demolition" was being carried out to enable crews to get to the body.

A man's body had already been recovered from the rubble by fire crews on Sunday.

Meanwhile Jeanette Dixon, 34, and Katie Graves, 27, pulled Nicholas Rourke, from the rubble and stayed with him until paramedics arrived and took him to hospital.

Miss Graves said: "I thought a car had gone into another car but then I saw it... Where there had been a house. There wasn't a house there anymore. It had gone.

"We saw Nick's hand hanging out of the rubble so we pulled him out.

"The house next door the guys were smashing the window to get into the house and then I saw a baby being passed through the window of the house next door.

"We tried to see if there was anyone else in the rubble but the flames were too intense. It was like a Playstation game. I've never seen anything like it.

"The house was everywhere. The house is on the other side of the road. It seemed to have come forward.

"By this time they had evacuated everyone from the street."

Describing the blast, Miss Dixon said: "We were just watching TV and then all of a sudden it was like a boom.

"People have said explosion but that's the wrong word.

"We looked out the window and we could just see people running, screaming and smoke in the street.

"We run out on to the street. You couldn't see anything it was just smoke."

Miss Graves added: "It was like a sonic boom - like you see in the films where everything just comes together and goes bang and that's exactly what it was like. Everything in the house just jumped and left the floor - the whole house did. It was a noise that wasn't a normal noise."

The pair praised the police officers and emergency services.

"All the emergency services are trying to do now is to make it safe for everybody else to return and we've got to appreciate that. It's going to take time. We've got to also appreciate that two people have unfortunately lost their lives and they're recovering them now.

"There's other things that need to be worried about."

Emergency services rushed to the scene after the blast at around 5.15pm on Sunday.

newark explosion

Witnesses reported 'plumes of smoke everywhere'

More than 100 people were evacuated from nearby homes as a precaution while a rest centre was set up at a nearby leisure centre.

Local people described their shock at the severity of the explosion.

Construction worker Cormac Fleming was walking down Wright Street with his wife and child at the time of the explosion.

Describing how a woman passed a two-month-old baby to him through the front window of the neighbouring house in the aftermath of the blast, Mr Fleming said: "The mother was very concerned about the baby, because it was very small.

"The three people that I came across were in complete and utter shock.

"They just did not know what was going on.

"The main house is non-existent, literally the whole roof collapsed within a split second and it tore down half of another building with it."

Simon Hunter, who lives nearby, told ITV's Daybreak: "It was just a massive crash, like a big explosion.

"We had just come in from the garden and there was a massive explosion.

"The house shook, I looked at my wife and it was just sheer terror, we didn't know what was going on.

"My initial reaction was that a train had derailed.

"Then I saw the house with plumes of smoke everywhere. It was just carnage, it was unbelievable."

Superintendent Mike Manley, of Nottinghamshire Police, told a press conference near the scene that officers were conducting a joint inquiry with the fire service on behalf of the coroner.

Describing the blast as a "distressing tragedy", the officer said: "We are supporting the families, the neighbours and others who have been displaced by this incident.

"Our priority is the recovery of the deceased person and the support of the family."

Group manager Bryn Coleman, of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the man's body was found between the basement and ground floor of the premises in the early hours.

The search-and-rescue operation then continued until the woman was located and pronounced dead at about 3am.

Nottinghamshire County Council said a hotline has been set up for people who had been affected by the explosion.

Local residents who were evacuated and who want information on when they can return can contact the Council on 0300 500 80 80, a spokesman said.

The Archdeacon of Newark, David Picken, said: "Our prayers and support are with all those who have been affected by this awful tragedy.

"We will be praying especially for the family of the bereaved and the injured and our clergy and local churches are already offering support and practical help to those who have been affected."

Police confirmed the body of a woman, the second fatality in the explosion, had now been removed from the rubble.