‘The entire roof lifted up as flames came out’: Eyewitness neighbour whose son helped woman escape Cheltenham house explosion describes carnage after blast

‘The entire roof lifted up as flames came out’: Eyewitness neighbour whose son helped woman escape Cheltenham house explosion describes carnage after blast

  • Phil Surman watched in horror as his neighbour’s bungalow exploded 
  • A woman, believed to be in her 40s, was rushed to hospital  

The neighbour of a woman whose house was destroyed in a suspected gas explosion has described the moment it went up. 

Phil Surman’s son, helped rescue the woman – believed to be in her 40s – after fire ripped through her bungalow in Cheltenham last night.   

The woman was rushed to hospital after the explosion in the Springbank area of the town. 

Mr Surman said: ‘It was about 9.20pm. There was a massive explosion. By coincidence I had been looking out from my house that way when it happened.

‘The roof lifted up and the flames came out. The patio doors from her house ended up in my garden and two bedroom windows landed on the other side of the road, in a car park.

A woman has been rushed to hospital after an explosion at a house in Cheltenham last night

The home, which is believed to be a bungalow, was reduced to rubble and left in ruins

‘It was a massive blast.’

He added that the woman lived alone and he was convinced that she was out of the house before the explosion as he couldn’t believe anyone would have survived had they been inside. 

Mr Surman said his son went to help her while she was stood on the driveway.

The woman’s house was reduced to rubble and neighbouring homes had to be evacuated as fire and smoke filled the area.

Firefighters, police and ambulance crews attended the blaze with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) reportedly still at the scene this morning.

The home that exploded was owned by Cheltenham Borough Council which has sent staff to the scene to support affected residents.

A council spokesperspon said today: ‘Last night, a council owned home on Springbank Way was affected by a suspected gas explosion. 

The cause of the explosion and fire at the property is currently unknown and an investigation is being carried out

Residents reported hearing an explosion and saw flames and smoke engulfing the house

‘Residents affected by the fire are being fully supported by Cheltenham Borough Council and Cheltenham Borough Homes.’

Councillor Victoria Atherstone, cabinet member for housing at Cheltenham Borough Council, added: ‘We are giving full support to those affected by last night’s suspected gas explosion, which directly affected one property, and the wider community. 

‘We had officers on scene, as well as on standby, to offer assistance together with partner agencies.

‘The residents nearby were evacuated from the homes last night but have since been able to return home. 

‘Our officers have visited homes this morning to check on the welfare of the residents and if there is anything they need. 

‘The tenant directly affected is in hospital and we will of course provide every assistance, when they are able to leave.

‘Events like this are incredibly upsetting for our residents and we will continue to do all we can to further offer our support.’

The council spokesperson added: ‘There are no immediate housing needs for any of the neighbouring residents. 

‘The council will be supporting the emergency services as they work to understand the cause of the fire.’

A spokesman for the fire service said last night: ‘GFRS are in attendance at a building collapse at Springbank Way, Cheltenham. 

‘We have a multiagency attendance with police, fire, and ambulance services plus specialist search and rescue teams from Avon FRS.

‘One female casualty has been treated on scene and taken to hospital, surrounding properties have been evacuated. 

Firefighters, police and ambulance crews attended the blaze with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) still at the scene this morning

‘At present crews are carrying out search and rescue plus extinguishing pockets of fire and will remain on scene for some considerable time.’

A Gloucestershire Police spokesman said: ‘We had an emergency 999 call come through at 9.48pm alerting us to a fire in Springbank Way in Cheltenham.

‘Police attended as a grade one emergency response and police are still on the scene. We believe a bungalow is on fire and this is an evolving incident.’

Richie Jones, Wales & West Utilities Gas Emergency service manager for Cheltenham said: ‘We were called to reports of a fire at a property in the Springbank Way area of Cheltenham last night and immediately sent an engineer to the scene. 

‘On arrival, we found that there had been severe structural damage to the property and the emergency services were in control.’

‘We worked with them to make the area safe while they extinguished the fire.

‘The cause of the fire is not yet known and we are working with the emergency services to investigate.’

People were urged last night to avoid the area with key roads nearby closed by police.

The A4013 Princess Elizabeth Way was closed in both directions from Coronation Square to A4019 Tewkesbury Road due to the incident.

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Olivia Christie

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