Medical crew hail woman’s survival from blast house a ‘miracle’

A medical team was met with a scene like a “full-on warzone” as they relived the moment they were sent to a gas blast at a Sunderland home.

The Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA) was called to treat mum-of-two Susan Shepherd following the catastrophic incident, which obliterated her home in Roslyn Avenue, Ryhope, and led to her neighbour’s property being demolished soon after.

A photo by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, showing the extent of the damage to the semi-detached house in Rosslyn Avenue, Ryhope.

A photo by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, showing the extent of the damage to the semi-detached house in Rosslyn Avenue, Ryhope.

The explosion left the then 40-year-old trapped under rubble with burns to her upper body and an injury to her hip, with fears her two children were still inside the house.

Now, the emergency response to the incident, on Friday, August 11, will be featured on a television documentary.

It follows the team as word comes through it has been declared a major incident before its members join North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), Northumbria Police and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service on the ground.

The programme comes as the Health and Safety Executive confirmed it has completed its investigations into the explosion, with no enforcement action to be taken in regards to any company or organisation linked to the house.

I’m not exaggerating to say it was like a bomb site, a full on warzone.

Dr Phil Godfrey

Susan was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and it is understood she has since made a good recovery.

The charity’s aircrew doctor Phil Godfrey, paramedic Marcus Johnson and pilot Keith Armatage appear in tomorrow’s episode of Emergency Helicopter Medics.

Mr Johnson and Dr Godfrey headed to hospital with Susan in a NEAS ambulance, with a second aircraft sent as the children were still not accounted for at that stage.

Dr Godfrey said: “I’m not exaggerating to say it was like a bomb site, a full-on warzone.

Two of the Great North Air Ambulance's helicopters on scene in Ryhope, shared by the charity online.

Two of the Great North Air Ambulance's helicopters on scene in Ryhope, shared by the charity online.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.

“That she survived was a miracle.

“Arriving on scene we didn’t know what to expect or how many patients there would be.

“Once we arrived the incident officer from North East Ambulance Service was coordinating the rescue.

The emergency services in Rosslyn Avenue, Ryhope, following the gas explosion.

The emergency services in Rosslyn Avenue, Ryhope, following the gas explosion.

“He gave us a summary and directed us to the patient, meaning we were able to hit the ground running.

“The response from all the emergency services was incredible really.

“The speed and coordination with which everyone responded probably saved the patient’s life, and I’m just proud to have played a part in that.”

A Health and Safety Executive spokesperson told the Echo: “It was not possible to prove exactly what caused this explosion.

“In the opinion of our gas engineer who investigated the incident, the most likely cause was a gas leak from the steel service pipe within the front garden of the property.

“The gas almost certainly entered a cavity wall and passed into the house.

The Great North Air Ambulance leaving the scene in Rosslyn Avenue following the explosion.

The Great North Air Ambulance leaving the scene in Rosslyn Avenue following the explosion.

“The reason no enforcement action was taken was that there were no reasonably practicable steps the duty holder, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), could have taken to prevent the incident. “There was no reason for NGN to suspect the service pipe was damaged.”

The incident will appear as part of tomorrow’s instalment of the More 4 series at 9pm.

GNAAS does not receive Government funding and must raise around £5 million every year to survive.

For more information visit www.gnaas.com or call 01325 487 263.

What remained of the semi-detached homes following the incident.

What remained of the semi-detached homes following the incident.