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'Sheer luck nobody died': Man admits causing Sunderland gas blast which caused over £1million in damage and left two people in hospital

A man has admitted he sparked a gas explosion which tore through a row of flats, causing more than £1million in damage, and put two people in hospital.

By Karon Kelly
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:16 pm

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The blast on Whickham Street, Sunderland, in February, totally destroyed one property and substantially damaged several others.

At Newcastle Crown Court, Ian Lenaghan, 59, who was badly hurt himself in the blast, pleaded guilty to damaging property being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The charge states he was reckless whether the lives of three named people, not including himself, would be put at risk.

The damage caused by the gas blast. Picture: TWFRS.

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Lenaghan, of Whickham Street, Sunderland, who appeared at the hearing via video link to prison, will be sentenced on June 27.

Judge Penny Moreland warned him: "By far the most likely outcome here is a sentence of immediate custody.

"You will remain in custody until the date for sentence."

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The scene of the explosion in Sunderland.

The court heard a pre-sentence report will be prepared by the probation service in the meantime.

Tony Cornberg, defending, told the court there may also be a report from a psychiatrist.

Shocking pictures of the terrace, comprised of a type of accommodation housing single storey apartments, show a roof totally blown off and piles of debris in the road.

One man who was taken to hospital had been inside the flat which suffered the most damage when the explosion erupted, while the other was on the street.

The blast cxaused extensive damage in the street.

The road was evacuated and taped off afterwards.

Northumbria Police said that an investigation into the cause of the explosion was subsequently carried out with the force supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service.

They found that a gas cooker hose had been cut multiple times with a sharp metal object prior to the blast, which occurred at 3.45pm.

Detective Sergeant Alan Whittle, of Northumbria Police, said: “Ian Lenaghan’s actions that afternoon could so easily have resulted in a number of fatalities. It is sheer luck that nobody died in that blast.

Emergency services at the scene after the blast. Picture: TWFRS

“The damage caused on this residential street was significant, at an estimated value of up to £1.4 million. It displaced people from their homes and came at a huge cost to everyone involved.

“I am pleased that he has now been convicted of this offence at court and he must now face the consequences of his mindless actions when he is sentenced next month.

“I would like to thank the community for their incredible cooperation and patience throughout, as well as HSE, Gentoo and our blue-light colleagues who played such an instrumental role in the hours and days after the blast.”

Ian Leneghan.