Neighbours near Christchurch explosion 'narrowly escaped injury'

6:25 pm on 22 July 2019

A neighbour living just one door down from Friday's gas explosion in Christchurch says he and his wife narrowly escaped being injured.

Barry Hobson at his damaged home.

Barry Hobson at his damaged home. Photo: Photo / Conan Young

Five remain in hospital, one in a critical but stable condition. The blast left five neighbouring homes uninhabitable.

RNZ visited the badly-damaged home of Barry Hobson, who left his house along with his wife, just 20 minutes before the explosion.

A large concrete roofing tile is lodged at right angles in the lawn at 5 Marble Court.

It came from the epicentre of the blast one door down at number 9, one of hundreds of tiles sent high in the air by the explosion before plummeting to earth, smashing in to roofs and on to surrounding yards.

Mr Hobson said 20 minutes beforehand he decided to visit his daughter.

His wife just happened to join him.

"Nineteen out of 20 times she's at home and this particular day she decided to come for a ride with me. So she wasn't home so she's very lucky. Like if Kate had been home and putting the washing out she would have been bombarded with all of that rubble."

The Hobson's home had sustained major damage, including gib board that had been blown off walls and ceilings and windows and doors that had been ripped out of the walls, frames and all, and now leaned out at precarious angles.

Today was the first time they had had a chance to have a good look around the place.

The scene near gas explosion.

The scene near gas explosion. Photo: Photo / Conan Young

They were now waiting for a structural engineer to come through and decide if their house could be repaired.

It wasn't the first time the Hobsons had been compelled to leave their home. The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes also forced them to move on.

"We were red zoned, we lost our house and we decided to come to the other side of town on a nice flat level playing field. Not knowing that the house two along was going to blow up. I don't know what else can happen to us."

Faye McGill lived at the end of Marble Court.

Despite extensive damage inside, her and her husband have been allowed to return to their home.

Memories of Friday when she was at home looking after her grand daughter were still fresh in her mind.

"It rained the bats and shingle, initially I thought with the noise, a plane's come down with that real boom and I think a lot of us thought that and little one just said what's that now and I just said that's the wind but it wasn't. It was incredible."

Faye McGill outside her Marble Court home.

Faye McGill outside her Marble Court home. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Faye's husband John had his own lucky escape.

"The windows had all popped out," he said. "And it rained glass and shingle which came through the house and where John would be sitting a piece of glass came through.

"And it's cut all in to the leather couch so it would have hurt him quite massively, but there must have been an angel looking after us, for him to be sitting somewhere else."

The cordon was now down around Marble Court but the home where the blast occurred was still fenced off.

Fire, police and Worksafe investigators were seen by RNZ poring over what was left of the house as they tried to establish what caused the explosion.

RNZ had contacted the lawyer for the gasfitter who carried out work on the property the day before but has yet to receive a reply.

The aftermath of the explosion at Marble Court.

The aftermath of the explosion at Marble Court. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young