Gas explosion victim’s home was looted
A disabled resident wants to “put the story straight about Ashford’s community spirit” after his home was looted hours after a devastating gas explosion.
Richard Legge, 54, was living in a flat in Oak Tree Road with his partner last year when a fireball ripped through the building.
Eight council-owned properties were affected, 10 people were left homeless and dozens of nearby homes were evacuated.
Mr Legge and his partner Angela Piggott, 48, were displaced by the disaster on June 15 last year and spent six weeks living with his mum.
Mr Legge, who has Parkinson’s and now lives in Willesborough, said: “We were left with absolutely nothing, just the clothes on our back and the shoes on our feet.
“So to find out we had been robbed after the explosion was just heartbreaking.
“They took a huge list of things, iPad, laptops, all sorts of easily grabable things.
“All that was left of my possessions was a picture, my teeth and a pair of glasses.”
Mr Legge explained that Angela had been in the flat at the time of the explosion, having a lie down.
She was treated for smoke inhalation immediately after and he said that even now the pair are still both terrified whenever they hear a bang.
He added: “We are still devastated. We have had to rebuild as best we can but we are still a mess.
“Financially it has been absolutely crippling.
“We had no savings and we had no contents insurance because it was just an interim stopover.
“Whatever was left of our stuff got wet and ruined in storage. I had a blue leather sofa that was literally growing mushrooms by the time it was returned to us.
“It’s been a nightmare. It’s made my Parkinson’s worse that it should be and my partner still has terrible nightmares.
“Both of us practically hide under the table if we hear bangs now.”
In the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report on the explosion, inspectors confirmed they had been focused on the issue of gas in the premises and that the blast could have been caused by an un-soldered pipe but an HSE spokesman said the investigation had been completed and no further action would be taken.
Mr Legge said the couple are unhappy with the lack of action and have contacted a solicitor to take further action against gas company SGN.
He added: “We didn’t even get an apology from SGN so we have got a solicitor on board.
“We received a lot of support from Ashford In Crisis at the time but I don’t recognise this ‘wonderful community spirit’ people keep talking about.
“It’s all well and good saying about community spirit but someone from the community helped themselves to my stuff at the worst point in our lives. What kind of community spirit is that?”
Richard Legge lost everything when his Oak Tree Road flat was damaged by a gas explosion
Demolition work under way after the devastating explosion