New Ferry gas blast which injured 81 ‘was insurance job that went wrong’

New Ferry gas blast which injured 81 ‘was insurance job that went wrong’

An explosion which injured 81 people and caused 'utter devastation' was an insurance job which went 'badly wrong', a court has heard. On Wednesday, a

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An explosion which injured 81 people and caused ‘utter devastation’ was an insurance job which went ‘badly wrong’, a court has heard.

On Wednesday, a jury at Liverpool Crown Court watched CCTV footage of the moment of the gas blast, which happened at about 9.15pm on March 25, 2017, in New Ferry, Wirral.

The footage shows a huge flash and debris flying from surrounding buildings, then people running towards the source of the explosion.

Pascal Blasio, 57, of Gillingham in Kent, denies causing the explosion at his furniture shop Homes In Style, on Bebington Road, and one count of fraud relating to an insurance claim he made following the blast.

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been ‘almost apocalyptic’.

He said 63 properties were destroyed or damaged in the blast, and 81 people sustained injuries including lacerations and burns as well as psychological trauma. 

Firemen photographed surveying the devastation following the explosion in New Ferry, on the Wirral in March 2017.

Firemen photographed surveying the devastation following the explosion in New Ferry, on the Wirral in March 2017.

Firemen photographed surveying the devastation following the explosion in New Ferry, on the Wirral in March 2017.

The explosion which injured 81 people and caused "utter devastation" was an insurance job which went "badly wrong", a court has heard

The explosion which injured 81 people and caused "utter devastation" was an insurance job which went "badly wrong", a court has heard

The explosion which injured 81 people and caused ‘utter devastation’ was an insurance job which went ‘badly wrong’, a court has heard

Among the injured was Lewis Jones, 21, who suffered a serious brain injury and was ‘left clinging to life’. The court heard Mr Jones was still under the care of a consultant in neuro-rehabilitation and had not been able to work since the incident.

Mr Lawrence said: ‘When you see, hear and listen to the evidence, you will have no difficulty at all in coming to the conclusion that, in this case, it truly was a miracle that nobody was killed as a result of this explosion.

‘The explosion in New Ferry on the night of March 25, 2017, could easily have led to the loss of many lives.

‘It was genuinely luck, sheer luck, that prevented this from happening.’

Mr Lawrence said witnesses described hearing a ‘deafening and almighty bang’ and being thrown off their feet by the force of the explosion.

He said: ‘The scene, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, was one of complete chaos.

The aftermath of the New Ferry explosion and devastation on Bebington Road high street, New Ferry, on the Wirral

The aftermath of the New Ferry explosion and devastation on Bebington Road high street, New Ferry, on the Wirral

The aftermath of the New Ferry explosion and devastation on Bebington Road high street, New Ferry, on the Wirral

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been 'almost apocalyptic' with 63 properties damaged or destroyed

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been 'almost apocalyptic' with 63 properties damaged or destroyed

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, told the jury the explosion had been ‘almost apocalyptic’ with 63 properties damaged or destroyed

CCTV images from the night of the explosion at Homes In Style store in New Ferry, Wirral show the intensity of the blast

CCTV images from the night of the explosion at Homes In Style store in New Ferry, Wirral show the intensity of the blast

CCTV images from the night of the explosion at Homes In Style store in New Ferry, Wirral show the intensity of the blast

‘People were running everywhere. People were lying on the floor, screaming and crying. People were dazed and confused. The scene was one of utter devastation.’

The front of a Chinese restaurant, which was full of diners, was blown in by the blast, leaving customers covered in glass and rubble.

Windows of a pub and nearby houses were also blown in. Two people were severely injured in the explosion, and 31 others described as ‘walking wounded’.

Builder Martin Lennon, 53, said at the time: ‘It was like a warzone, it was a nightmare.’

The court was told the blast originated at Blasio’s furniture shop called Homes in Style on Bebington Road. 

Mr Blasio’s shop was served with a main gas supply, via a gas pipe that ran into the property from the gas main in the road outside. The pipe had originally been connected to a gas meter, but this had been removed some years earlier.

A gas supply in Blasio's property was tampered with, prosecutors said, allowing gas to build up to levels necessary to cause an explosion, when it was then ignited causing the blast

A gas supply in Blasio's property was tampered with, prosecutors said, allowing gas to build up to levels necessary to cause an explosion, when it was then ignited causing the blast

A gas supply in Blasio’s property was tampered with, prosecutors said, allowing gas to build up to levels necessary to cause an explosion, when it was then ignited causing the blast

A huge swathe of the area had to be fenced off while emergency services responded and then the rubble had to be cleared

A huge swathe of the area had to be fenced off while emergency services responded and then the rubble had to be cleared

A huge swathe of the area had to be fenced off while emergency services responded and then the rubble had to be cleared

Investigations found the explosion had been caused by a build-up of gas in Blasio’s furniture shop, where a cap had been deliberately removed from a pipe and the emergency control valve had been turned to allow gas to escape.

The blast happened when the gas came into contact with an ‘unidentified ignition source’, which Mr Lawrence said may have been an electrical appliance in the shop.

Mr Lawrence said: ‘The blanking cap was removed with the emergency control valve turned allowing gas to flow towards the end of the pipe, by Mr Blasio.

‘This deliberate act allowed gas to gradually fill the property. You will hear that gas has to mix with air to reach a combustible level at which it can ignite and explodes.

‘This can take a number of hours, depending on a number of factors, including the ventilation in the property.

‘However, once it reaches this combustible level, any ignition source will cause an explosion. This is exactly what happened.’

He added: ‘Very simply for now, Mr Blasio, following the explosion, was complicit in submitting a fraudulent claim to NFU Mutual in relation to furniture that was allegedly lost or destroyed in the explosion. NFU were the insurers of the shop and the furniture in it.

‘So, in a nutshell, and in simple terms, putting this as bluntly as I can for you, this was an insurance job, but one that perhaps given the scale of what happened, went badly wrong.’

Pascal George Francois Blasio, 56, of Gillingham, Kent, is charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life

Pascal George Francois Blasio, 56, of Gillingham, Kent, is charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life

Pascal George Francois Blasio, 56, of Gillingham, Kent, is charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life

Pascal George Francois Blasio

Pascal George Francois Blasio

Pascal George Francois Blasio

Pascal George Francois Blasio

Prosecutors said today it was not relevant whether Blasio, pictured, intended to cause such damage or danger, but ‘he deliberately caused the explosion which was of a nature that was likely to endanger life or cause serious injury’

He added: ‘It may well be that Mr Blasio did not intend to completely destroy or damage so many buildings. It may well be the case that he didn’t intend to injure anyone.

‘It may be that he was only intending to damage his own shop, and the furniture in it, by starting a fire or causing an explosion.

‘None of this is relevant.

‘He deliberately caused the explosion which was of a nature that was likely to endanger life or cause serious injury. He did so and then was complicit in submitting a fraudulent insurance claim for furniture allegedly lost in the explosion and for loss of business.’ 

Witnesses described seeing furniture being moved from the shop on the day of the explosion and the day before. They said the shop was ‘virtually empty’ and a sign on the door said it would be closed for three days.

The trial is expected to last for up to four weeks.

Blasio denies causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and a charge of fraud. 

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