'Cowboy gas fitters caused my fire to explode'

Ken Ashcroft with his fireplace
Ken Ashcroft with his fireplace
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A pensioner has revealed how his gas fire ‘exploded’ in his living room after unregistered gas work was carried out in his home.

Ken Ashcroft, 70, was left with a £4,000 repair bill after the shoddy work – something he has described as a “nightmare”.

Ken, from Eccleston near Chorley, had his fireplace fitted on November 18, 2016, after buying it from Wigan firm Black Diamond on November 2.

The incident at Mr Ashcroft’s home, along with two further ones in Wigan, saw James Allen from Radcliffe, Bury, and Karl Welsh from Skelmersdale given suspended prison sentences and ordered to do community work after admitting three breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

The court heard how the duo – who were not employed by Black Diamond – carried out substandard and dangerous gas work at three properties; Mr Ashcroft’s and a further two in Wigan.

Gas Safe inspectors found two installation defects that were immediately dangerous, one of them spilling carbon monoxide into a house.

Welsh ended up with a suspended sentence of 10 months, 150 hours of unpaid work and an order to pay £2,200 in costs.

Allen was given the same suspended jail term and amount of community work and will have to pay £1,000 in costs.

Speaking since the conviction earlier this month, Ken revealed the trauma he and wife Marlene have experience in the two years since problems started.

Speaking about the ‘explosion’, Ken, who lives in Drapers Avenue, said: “At this point the fire had been on for four hours.

“There was a bang behind the fireplace. We were sat in the sitting room at the back of the house.

“I ran to the front door at first because it sounded like it came from there.

“I then went to the living room [where the fireplace is] and there was a terrible smell.

“The fireplace was red hot.

“If we had not come across it when we did we would have been in serious trouble.”

Ken revealed that experts had told him that the heat proof blocks surrounding the fire were not the correct blocks, explaining the loud bang he and Marlene heard.

Since the incident Ken has been left without a fire – as well as eye-watering costs totalling £4,000.

He said: “They have left me with a £4,000 job. We have no fire in now because all the wall will have to be taken down to fix the problem. It’s been a nightmare.”

Regarding the court’s outcome, Ken added: “I am just speechless to be honest. I can’t understand. They are getting away with it.

“We have never been bothered about compensation we just wanted these people stopped.”

Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Jennifer French said: “Karl Welsh and James Allen undertook gas work which they knew they were not registered to do.

“All gas work must be done by registered Gas Safe engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life.

“HSE will not fail to take the appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

The duo were sentenced at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, January 3.