AN 80-year-old woman was left fighting for her life after being set alight during a gas blast at her Wearside home.
Elizabeth Appleby suffered severe burns to her back and burns to her face during the explosion at her Hadleigh Road home on the Hylton Lane estate in Sunderland.
The pensioner’s husband, John Appleby, 82, suffered burns to his hands as he tried to put out the flames from his wife’s burning clothing.
Both pensioners were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle where Mrs Appleby was being cared for in intensive care and Mr Appleby in the burns unit.
The couple’s horrified family said at the moment they have no idea what happened at the rented property.
Engineers from Northern Gas Networks were called to the scene, but said no leaks in their network of gas pipes had been detected.
Daughter, Gillian Fox, 55, who lives opposite the couple, said: “It all happened so quickly. My son said ‘what’s the matter with nana’s window?’ and at that their next-door neighbour was running over saying there had been an explosion.”
She said her dad was upstairs when he heard the explosion and came down to find his wife in the front room on fire and managed to put out the flames.
Mrs Fox said: “When I ran into the house my mam was standing there, I think she was in shock and didn’t know what had happened.”
She said the couple, who have four children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, were still in good health and sprightly for their age, so the family can’t understand what has happened.
Younger daughter, Jacqueline Appleby, 52, said: “I had been in the house on the morning and there had been no smell of gas or anything. We just don’t know what has happened. We are all in shock.”
Mark Barton, watch manager at Farringdon fire station, said they were called to the house at 8.40pm on Monday following reports of the explosion.
He said: “It looks like it has been a build-up of gas in the downstairs of the property, but how this has happened is still under investigation.”
Three fire appliances attended the scene where the explosion had blown out the living room window and caused damage to the kitchen.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said the Health and Safety Executive is carrying out an investigation into the incident.