"It was like an earthquake hit Preston": Neighbours speak about moment gas explosion rocked city street

Neighbours of a man injured in a gas explosion in Preston have spoken of the moments following the blast which rocked their homes in Bleasdale Street East today (February 16).

By Matthew Calderbank
Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 5:37 pm

The injured man, named locally as Francis Sharples, was airlifted to hospital after suffering serious burns in the explosion at his home at around 10.40am.

Neighbours say the blast felt like "an earthquake", shaking their furniture and rattling their windows.

One neighbour said he heard "one big bang" and ran outside where he encountered the man, known as 'Frannie', stood in the street with "smoke coming off him".

Emergency services rushed to Francis Sharples' home in Bleasdale Street East after a gas explosion rocked the street at 10.40am (February 16)

"He looked shell-shocked," said the neighbour, who asked not to be named.

"There was one big bang and I went straight outside to see what happened and there he was. He was stood up and just looked in shock.

"There was smoke coming off him and half his face and one side was bright red with burns."

Another neighbour said he was sat in his living room when he heard "one big boom", "like an earthquake".

Fire crews, gas engineers and building inspectors have been ensuring the home and Bleasdale Street East are safe after today's gas explosion

He said: "I wondered what it was at first. The ground felt like it was an earthquake. It shook the floor and all the windows.

"I thought it could have been an accident at one of the workshops at first, because we have some garages and units like that around here, but it felt too close.

"Then in no time at all, the street was full of police and fire engines, ambulances, sirens, everything.

"We didn't know what had happened at first, then when we saw it was at Frannie's house.

This neighbour described Francis Sharples, the man injured in the blast, as a "lovely bloke" who "goes about life in his own way"

"Frannie's a lovely bloke. I wish him all the best."

Mary Priestley, who lives a few doors down, said her dog started going "berserk" after the blast shook her home.

"It was just a big bang. And I looked out the window and couldn't see anything, but the dog was panicking, going berserk," she said.

"Then when I looked out, there was fire engines, police, the lot. I couldn't believe it.

"All the folks around here know Frannie," said neighbour Mary Priestley. "He's a decent fellow," she added, "he just keeps himself to himself".

"I asked what's gone on? They said "gas explosion" and I thought, am I going to be safe?"

Mrs Priestley said her neighbour Mr Sharples lives alone and "keeps himself to himself".

"He's just a bit funny," she said, "but he goes about life in his own way. Doesn't bother nobody or anything.

"I've known him eight years and he's a decent fellow. All the folks around here know him. He's a friendly man, he just keeps himself to himself."

Mr Sharples was taken by ambulance to Deepdale Stadium where he was transferred to an air ambulance waiting in the car park.

He was then flown to hospital to undergo emergency treatment for serious burns.

The injured man, named locally asFrancis Sharples, aged in his 70s, was airlifted to hospital after suffering serious burns in the explosion at his Bleasdale Street East home at around 10.40am (Tuesday, February 16)