15 Dec 2020

Christchurch house gas explosion: Gasfitter ordered to pay over $134k

5:11 pm on 15 December 2020

A gasfitter charged after carrying out work at a Christchurch home a day before it exploded has been ordered to pay over $134,000 in emotional harm payments.

The man on the left is Gregory John Smith the gas-fitter involved in the case and the other is his defence counsel Joseph Lill.

The man on the left is Gregory John Smith - the gasfitter involved in the case - and the other is his defence counsel Joseph Lill. (file image) Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Gregory John Smith worked on the gas fire in the house on Marble Court in the suburb of Northwood which exploded in July last year, completely destroying the house and injuring six people.

WorkSafe charged two people under the Gas Act 1992 following an investigation.

Smith, who is a gasfitter, entered a guilty plea when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court in September.

At the time, Justice David Saunders said the charge indicated negligence and carelessness and would likely involve a financial sentence rather than prison time.

In the Christchurch District Court today he was ordered to pay $134,300 in emotional harm payments to the victims.

Judge Zorhab also ordered him to complete 325 hours of community service and fined Gas Unlimited $82,000.

Crown prosecutor Dennis Dow read out the victim impact statement for the homeowner who has name suppression.

"No one who was in the house has fully recovered from that horrifying day, it's always going to be with us physically, emotionally, mentally, the sleepless nights and our everyday life.

"I still to this day, I get anxiety when around gas fires, cooking and BBQs," the homeowner said.

The woman said she had worked hard her whole life for everything she had and had made a lot of improvements to her home to enjoy in her retirement, all of which was lost on the day of the explosion.

"When I was discharged from A&E I walked out in someone else's shoes, track-pants from one of the other victims and a top from one of the staff at the hospital.

"I don't know how I didn't lose my life."

The woman described the emotional stress she suffered following the explosion.

The court heard how she was left homeless with no possessions or car.

She said she moved seven times in the 10 months following the explosion.

Another victim told the court his life has dramatically changed since that day.

He said he used to live life to the fullest but since suffering burns to 32 percent of his body his outlook on life and personality has changed.

"I remember lying on the grass after being carried from the house, my legs were burning and I could see my partner and friends nearby.

"A tag was put on my wrist with critical written on it, I was told I was the worst injured and remember thinking 'oh at least the others aren't as bad as this'," the man told the court.

He said that day was only the start of his nightmare as he now struggles to socialize and lacks concentration to do the hobbies he once loved.

"I hold no bad feelings towards anyone else concerned with the explosion. It was avoidable but we all want to do this and move on as much as we can," he said.

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