A neighbour who helped rescue a man from a house “obliterated” by a gas explosion has told of his guilt at not being able to save a woman who died in the blast.
Sidney Pritchett, 38, had not long sat down in his living room after putting his two young children to bed on Sunday evening when he heard a massive bang and felt his house shake.
The physiotherapist shot out his front door in the Kingstanding area of Birmingham and immediately saw smoke coming from a mid-terrace house, which had been reduced to rubble about 150 metres away.
The father-of-two said he heard someone shouting for help from the back of the property and rushed to help with other witnesses.
He told The Independent: “We ran straight down the side of the house that was just rubble, we had to kick a fence down and climb through the hedge – there were about 10 to 14 of us in there.
“It was a massive scramble. There was a sink, mattresses, cabinets in the garden and everybody was pulling sinks and everything trying to get to him.
“The back garden was just a massive pile of bricks and we were just digging out trying to get wherever we could because we could see the gentleman and there were some cuts to his head but he was conscious.
“I just grabbed a mattress and dragged it through the hedge to the next garden and four lads carried him through. We had to pull the hedge apart to get him out.
“We put him as far away as we could in case the house exploded again.
“I told him ‘There’s a couple of cuts on your head’ and I asked if anyone else was in there.
“All of his clothes had been blown off him. He was just bleeding from the head. He was in shock, he was shaking, I was just saying ‘You are going to be alright’.
“I went back into the garden and the police were like ‘You’ve got to come out, you’ve got to come out’. I was checking if anyone else was in there, but the fire was getting worse – I couldn’t see if there was anyone else.”
Mr Pritchett, who has lived in Kingstanding with his partner for 13 years, said the fire was already about three or four feet high when he arrived at the scene, and it spread rapidly.
Speaking of his feelings when he heard a woman was killed in the blast, he said: “You’ve just got to hope the explosion killed her instantly because there was no way she could survive that.”
“It’s bittersweet knowing we saved him but she was still in there and we couldn’t help her. I still feel guilty we couldn’t get her out.”
He added: “I knew it was a gas explosion. Nothing else could’ve caused that because the house was obliterated and because of the sound.
“It was crazy. It was just carnage.
“Where he was it must’ve been the kitchen because there was a fridge behind him and the ceiling was like literally on top of him. In another minute or two he would’ve been dead because the fire would’ve taken him.
“It’s right opposite a swimming baths and the fire door on the swimming baths about 80 feet away had been blown off. A car driving past at the time had been obliterated but luckily all the people who got out the car were alright.”
West Midlands Fire Service confirmed a woman was pronounced dead at the scene in Dulwich Road after her body was recovered overnight.
A man remains in a critical condition in hospital after suffering life-threatening injuries.
Twenty-one residents were evacuated from their homes following the explosion and a handful of people were treated at the scene for minor wounds.
Those forced to leave their properties were housed in hotel accommodation or stayed with relatives overnight.
Some had already begun returning to their properties on Monday morning after the electricity supply was restored.
A total of six properties were directly affected by the blast and the area has now been made safe.
Martin Ward-White, an area commander at West Midlands Fire Service, said it “was clear a gas explosion had taken place” but it could take a number of days to establish the exact cause.