Shocked Ian says he and partner lucky to be alive after explosion rocks neighbouring house

SHELL shocked Ian Gowler and his partner say they are lucky to be alive after an explosion – caused by metal thieves- ripped through and destroyed a neighbouring bungalow.

Mr Gowler, 52, and Mavis Stailes were asleep when the next door semi detached bungalow in St Leonard’s Road, Leverington, was destroyed by a boiler exploding in the early hours of today.

Mr Gowler, who is now staying with friends, said: “I heard the noise first. “As I woke up all I could see was the wall blowing inwards and items off the shelf come hurtling at me.

“I’m a little bit sick that it’s happened but I feel helpless as you can’t do anything about it.”

He added: “I am just grateful that I or the missus didn’t get hurt.”

As the wall of his home buckled inwards, Mr Gowler escaped while neighbours arrived to help his partner who was already nursing a broken leg from an earlier accident, leave the property.

He and other residents then stood outside and watched in shock as fire fighters tackled the blaze and checked to ensure the house was safe from further explosions. Mr Gowler expects that his house will have to be demolished due to the scale of the damage.

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Fire fighters later confirmed the blast was as a result of metal theft and showed photographer Brian Purdy parts of the boiler which had been cut by raiders looking to make a quick buck.

Watch commander Philip Pilbeam said: “People are stealing metal to get a few quid but they are putting people’s lives in danger.”

Bradford Oughton, 70, who lives next door on the other side, added: “I was lying in bed and there was a whoosh and then a big bang.

“I got straight out of bed and went to the front door and saw it was blazing.”

One neighbour believes the incident could have been prevented if police had taken action over the weekend.

She said police had knocked on doors in the area less than 24 hours before the explosion asking for information in relation to metal thefts at the property.

Ironically the home’s owners, Roddons Housing Association, had stopped off on Saturday and left a calling card after trying to gain access to fix a leaking pipe.

“Unfortunately you were not home when we called,” said the card left by a Roddons plumber.

Incident commander Gary Reach said: “We are 99.9 per cent sure the metal theft has resulted in the explosion”.