Man, 83, burned in house blast after pulling gas pipe from wall

An 83-year-old man suffered extensive burns in a massive blast at his home shortly after he pulled a gas pipe from the wall, it emerged during the opening of his High Court action against Bord Gáis yesterday.

Man, 83, burned in house blast after pulling gas pipe from wall

William Lee, of 24, Barrett’s Buildings, Cork, was hospitalised for five weeks after sustaining burns to the front of his body in the explosion at his home in January 2013.

Mr Lee said he was moving an electrical socket for a hi-fi on the day in question and there was what he described as a loose pipe in his way so he pulled a length of pipe — roughly 2ft long — off the wall and put it out into his shed.

The pipe in question was in fact a capped gas pipe.

Alice Fawsett, the plaintiff’s senior counsel, asked him was there any danger notice on the pipe and he said there was none.

“I just pulled it off the wall because it was in my way. I was not thinking at all. I did not think about gas or anything else. I just pulled it off the wall.

“I broke it off and went out and threw it in the shed. There was an unmerciful bang. I put my hands to my face. I woke up in the hall with people walking all over the place,” he said.

The gas company had cut off two gas heaters in his house six months earlier because they were deemed unsafe.

Cross-examining the plaintiff, Miriam O’Riordan said he had signed a document given to him by Bord Gáis in relation to the capped gas pipe at his home.

Mr Justice Paul Butler summarised the key issue in the case. “There is a pipe and it is capped. He removes it without thinking. That causes an explosion. Was it warned well enough?

“Is it good enough to give an 83-year-old a piece of paper to sign? That is what it is all about.”

Also during the cross-examination, Ms O’Riordan asked: “What caused the explosion?”

Mr Lee replied: “That is a good question.”

Ms O’Riordan said: “You are a pipe smoker.” Mr Lee said: “I knew that [question] was coming.” Ms O’Riordan asked: “Is it possible that when you hacked off the pipe you were smoking your pipe?” He replied: “No. If it was in my mouth at the time it would have been in pieces. But I was smoking it when I came out of the hospital afterwards. It must have been in the kitchen [at the time of the explosion].”

The plaintiff said the structure of the house was insured but not the contents and that some of what was destroyed was irreplaceable including his vinyl record collection.

The case continues at the High Court sitting in Cork.

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