‘The help from neighbours was amazing’ – Young family give thanks after Stevenage house explosion next door

The Williams family, which live next door to house in Stevenage's Cavell Walk which exploded last w

The Williams family, which live next door to house in Stevenage's Cavell Walk which exploded last week, have thanked the community for their support. Picture: @Cave_Art_Films - Credit: Archant

A young family have been left humbled by the outpouring of support they have received in the aftermath of an explosion which has reduced much of their next door neighbour’s house to rubble.

Much of the house in Cavell Walk, Stevenage, has been reduced to rubble. Picture: @Cave_Art_Films

Much of the house in Cavell Walk, Stevenage, has been reduced to rubble. Picture: @Cave_Art_Films - Credit: Archant

The explosion in Cavell Walk was heard across the Chells area of Stevenage at about 9.20pm on Thursday evening.

One man – named locally as Shane Ansell – is still in hospital being treated for serious injuries. It is understood he was not inside the house when the explosion took place, but went into the house to rescue his dogs.

It is believed that a gas leak was the cause of the blast, which firefighters tackled for hours but had under control by about 2am the following morning.

Next door neighbour Stuart Williams was doing some DIY in the bathroom while his two-year-old twin boys were soundly sleeping.

A Herts fire aerial platform team tackle the blaze in Cavell Walk, Stevenage. Picture: @ReqsFireDog

A Herts fire aerial platform team tackle the blaze in Cavell Walk, Stevenage. Picture: @ReqsFireDog - Credit: Archant

Mum Sam, who was giving someone a late trim in Letchworth as part of her mobile hairdressing service, described the phone call she received from her husband after the explosion.

“It was a frantic call to say the least,” she said. “My husband said he had heard the most almighty bang which had shook the house.

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“His first thought was that someone had driven into the house, but by the time he had rushed downstairs there were already neighbours at our door, telling him to get his family out.

“He rushed upstairs with a neighbour and they both grabbed one of my children and got out.

“By the time I had arrived, there were four fire engines, more police than I have ever seen and a huge amount of people lining our street.

“Our first priority was our kids – they were bewildered, but they were at least enjoying looking at the fire engines. We took them to my mum’s house in Poplars and went back to the house.

“The help we got from neighbours was amazing, one family gave us blankets and another made us cups of tea – it was heartwarming.”

The Williams family will be staying in a hotel for two to three weeks while their house is checked for structural damage.

“Visually our house looks fine – we were allowed on the night to get our cats, an inhaler and other essentials, but they need to run further long-term safety checks on the property,” Sam said. “We are not sure when we can return and the boys are quite unsettled here.”

A Facebook group set up in the aftermath of the explosion quickly gathered more than 500 likes, while a fundraising page has received almost £700 in donations.

Sam said: “The community spirit on the night was incredible and it has been ever since.

“We have only lived here for 21/2 years so we are so lucky to have these people around us.

“Although we are extremely grateful, we are not accepting any money, but hope everything will go towards our neighbour to help him rebuild his life.”

Sarah Holmes, who set up the Facebook group, said: “It’s just nice to help people in our area.”

Hertfordshire’s chief fire office Roy Wilsher praised the 999 teams for getting on the road within 18 seconds and rescuing the man from the house in the space of about five minutes.

In a post on social media site Twitter, he said: “There was an excellent response to the explosion and fire in Stevenage by our crews.”

The fundraising page called ‘Cavell Walk Fire Disaster’, set up by Sue Ellis, can be found at www.gofundme.com/d3vzmczg.

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