A man who was killed in a gas explosion in Andover has been named locally as Jamie Kirkby by his distraught housemate who said he was ‘suicidal’ and was a regular drinker.
Outside the scene of the wreckage in Hampshire a shaken Liam Robinson revealed this morning how he he returned home after a late night out to find his house blown apart.
Mr Robinson lived with Mr Kirkby and another woman in the housing for vulnerable adults on Launcelot Close.
Jamie Kirkby (pictured above) was killed in a gas explosion in Andover
Jamie Kirkby (left and right) was described as ‘suicidal’ and a ‘bit of a downer’
The house was ripped apart, wrecking cars and destroying other buildings in an explosion around 2.30am.
Describing his housemate, Liam said: ‘Jamie was drinking all the time. I think he may have been a bit suicidal and depressed. He he needed more support than he got. He needed a lot more support.’
Glancing over the cordon at the collapsed home, he said: ‘I’m just shaken up – that’s my house. It’s all gone.’
Another resident of King Arthur’s Way, which adjoins Launcelot Close and who did not want to be named, said: ‘He was suicidal – a bit of a downer.’
A tent has been set up after a man’s body was found and emergency teams rushed in to secure the building
An aerial shot of the wreckage in Andover following an explosion in the property (pictured above)
It is believed the property which was at the centre of the explosion was for vulnerable adults
Clothes were flung high into the air and were in the trees (right) and police and sniffer dogs (left) were deployed to search the area
The blast – feared to have been caused by a gas leak – destroyed the home and shook others around it.
Surrounding houses in Launcelot Close, off King Arthurs Way, were evacuated after the explosion while ‘an incredibly strong smell of gas’ lingered in the air and gas engineers have now arrived at the site.
Neighbour Joshua Hough said the explosion was the ‘worst thing he had ever heard’, adding debris had been ‘scattered’ across the street while others reported their cars being smashed into by flying debris.
Horrifying pictures show the end-of-terrace home has completely collapsed, with rubble across the road.
Jess Thompson said ‘her entire house shook’ when the explosion happened as a window pane catapulted across the road and smashed her car windscreen.
The explosion sent a window panel catapulting over a house before smashing into the windscreen of her Vauxhall Zafira.
Another panel hit her house just inches below her sleeping son’s bedroom window
‘It must have gone flying when the explosion happened and hit my car when we heard the loud bang because I didn’t even hear it hit the car.
‘Another window panel hit just below my son’s bedroom window – we are very lucky it didn’t go in.
‘I’ve never heard a noise like that before – it was just so loud.’
Andy Phillips, 44, who lives close to the house which has been completely destroyed, said: ‘We live about 100 yards away, the sound was like a huge clap of thunder that shook and rattled ours and many other houses, damaging some of them.
‘The debris covers about a 25-metre radius.’
A gas engineer passes a vehicle crushed by debris in Launcelot Close, Andover
A mattress can be seen in the middle of the street after the home explosion. Neighbours reported smelling gas
Cars were battered by a part of the window pane which flew from the house and hit them
The ruins of a house are seen in Andover, Hampshire where a body has been pulled from wreckage
Recalling the chaos after the explosion, the 31-year-old said: ‘We heard an enormous bang and the whole house shook.
‘We heard car alarms and me and my husband ran downstairs because we thought we were being broken into.
‘When we got outside we saw all of the other car alarms were going off too and a window panel had smashed the windscreen of my car.
He said the property on Launcelot Close was a shared house for people ‘getting back on their feet after hard times’.
Engineers for gas distribution firm SGN said it was working with emergency services to identify the cause and is seeking to isolate gas supplies.
Cars outside the home were covered in debris while the side of a block of flats was torn off
A statement from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘The body of a man has been found after an explosion in Andover at about 2.30am this morning (December 27).
‘The explosion caused a building collapse in Andover.
‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and its Urban Search and Rescue teams are continuing to search the scene.
A huge pile of debris can be seen where the house once stood after a devastating gas explosion
‘Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service worked closely with colleagues from Hampshire Constabulary and South Central Ambulance Service.
‘A joint fire and police investigation is under way.’
One witness who did not want to be named ran into the home which has been severely damaged from a suspected gas explosion.
He said: ‘I heard a bang, it was just before I was about to go to bed.
A search of the rubble has begun in Andover after the explosion in the middle of the night
‘Me and a lad from down the road ran into the building. We had to push the doors in, I went in and he looked out for me, we had each other’s backs. It was a mess in there.
‘I didn’t see the explosion, just heard the bang and just a boom.
‘When we came out we saw the fire brigade and said there was no one in the second house. All morning they have been pushing us back.’
Launcelot Close in Andover on Thursday, where the body of a man has been found after an explosion caused a building to collapse
Neighbour Steven Cooke said: ‘At first I heard a bang then heard a car alarm go off.
‘I got up to make sure that no one was mucking about with the car. Then my wife went into the other room and said there had been a big explosion. We then got on the phone to the emergency services.
‘It is numbing. I still can’t believe what I was looking at. It is just a shock.’
An emergency centre has been set up to provide food and warmth for those who cannot get in their homes, at the top of the road.
Pictures of the devastation can be seen on the street off King Arthurs Way in Andover. Fire crews found one man dead
The homes on King Arthurs Way were evacuated after a suspected gas explosion killed a man
Sanjay and Sanika Adav, who live close by, added: ‘We heard a loud noise so we woke up and thought something had happened in our house as our house had shook a little. Then I saw the house over there totally destroyed.
‘Everything had collapsed and people were out there with torches searching to find out what happened.’
Piles of broken bricks, masonry and other rubble lie scattered round the house, with some walls still standing.
Neighbours in Christmas pyjamas were seen standing out in the street after the explosion
One resident, Liam Johnson, 33, said: ‘I live about quarter of a mile away and there was this terrific explosion.
‘It was like a bomb going off and me and my wife and two kids all woke up – we were terrified.
‘A few minutes later you could hear sdirens and see blue lights flashing as police and fire engines raced past.’
Cars were covered in debris as police evacuated scared neighbours from their homes
Dan Brown, a spokesman for gas distribution company SGN, said: ‘Following reports of an explosion in Launcelot Close, Andover, our engineers joined the emergency services on site in the early hours of the morning.
‘We understand an occupant in the property at the time of the explosion has died and our thoughts are with them and their family.
‘While it is too early to speculate as to what has happened, we’re working closely with the emergency services to help identify the cause. In conjunction with the authorities, we’re currently working to isolate gas supplies to property numbers one and two for safety.
‘We’ll remain on site to support the emergency services to help discover the cause of the explosion.’