Firefighters praised for rescuing casualty from wreckage of Sunderland gas explosion

Firefighters have been praised for rescuing a casualty from the wreckage of a Sunderland home after it was destroyed in a suspected gas explosion.

At 3.46pm on Tuesday (February 15th) Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) received a call reporting an explosion at a residential property on Whickham Street in Roker.

The first crew and appliance were on the scene in just five minutes and found the terraced building, made up of a ground flat and first floor flat, had been completely torn apart.

The occupant of the ground floor flat had managed to self-rescue but the occupant of the first floor flat was still inside the building upon the arrival of firefighters.

They immediately entered the building and rescued the male casualty before leaving him in the care of the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).

Both men were taken to hospital with “blast injuries” and initially they were not believed to be life threatening.

However, the condition of the man injured in the first floor flat deteriorated on Tuesday evening and he remains in hospital in a critical but stable condition.

Nobody else has reportedly been injured and, following a full assessment of the site by TWFRS on Tuesday evening, everyone is accounted for.

That assessment included a search by TWFRS Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams and specialist dog units from TWFRS and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Today (Thursday) TWFRS Deputy Chief Fire Officer Peter Heath praised the response of the crews and of the Fire Control staff who dispatched them.

He said: “You only have to look at the damage caused to the property to know that it is very fortunate only two people have been injured.

“Everyone at TWFRS wishes them a speedy recovery and I am glad our crews were able to be on scene so quickly to offer them immediate medical assistance with our partners to make the incident safe.

“That emergency response starts with our Fire Control team who received the initial 999 calls and dispatched the crews in the best position to respond. That crew was then on scene in just five minutes.

“Upon our arrival our crews immediately identified that an occupant of the property on question was unaccounted for and they carried out a search of the wreckage.

“Just last week we revealed how we unveiled a state-of-the-art training facility that simulates a collapsed building for our search and rescue teams to train on.

“An incident of this nature shows the importance of that training and ensures our crews are among the best in the country when responding to an incident of this type.

“I also want to thank our key partners for their role in the emergency response and to the members of the public in the area who heeded our advice and have shown great patience during a time when their lives have been disrupted.”

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Gentoo, said: “Gentoo was made aware of a major incident at 3:45pm on Tuesday that occurred at two flats on Whickham Street in Roker.

“Reports indicate this may have been a gas explosion, however investigations are continuing. The Health and Safety Executive is carrying out its investigation and we will continue to support them.

“We have been in contact with all of the residents and offered our support. We have found alternative accommodation for some of the residents, while some others have decided to stay with family members.

“We are clearly concerned for the wellbeing of the two confirmed casualties that have been taken to local hospitals. Our thoughts are with the casualties and their families at this difficult time, and we wish them both a full and quick recovery.

“Finally, I would like to thank colleagues from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, North East Ambulance Service, Sunderland City Council, Northern Gas Networks, and of my Gentoo colleagues, for their fantastic efforts in responding to the incident so quickly and professionally.”

Residents at properties in the immediate vicinity were evacuated as a precaution and have been offered temporary accommodation by the Gentoo group.

TWFRS left the scene shortly after 8pm on Tuesday evening and the site has been left in the care of the Gentoo group who own the buildings in question.