Published: 08:18 EST, 1 November 2020 | Updated: 09:11 EST, 1 November 2020
A mother who was left fighting for her life with her children when a gas explosion destroyed their home has spoke of hearing her sons screaming for help while she was trapped under rubble.
Jessica Williams, 31, was left with 70 per cent burns and placed in an induced coma for a month after her terraced house in Seven Sisters, South Wales, was destroyed in the blast on June 24.
Four months later, Jessica now has to learn to talk and walk again, while her sons Reuben, five, and Elliott, two, miraculously survived despite burns affecting around 28 per cent of their bodies.
The distraught mother can still describe in painstaking detail the exact moment which changed her family’s life forever – and her heartbreak of hearing her sons crying out for help in the living room while she was stuck in the kitchen.
In a now closed investigation, South Wales Police concluded that the huge explosion was most likely caused by a ‘combination of ageing LPG gas (gas which is stored in cylinders or bottles) and environmental conditions’.
Jessica Williams (pictured), 31, was left with 70 per cent burns and placed in an induced coma for a month after her terraced house in Seven Sisters, South Wales, was destroyed in the blast on June 24
Four months later, Jessica now has to learn to talk and walk again, while her sons Reuben, five, and Elliott, two, miraculously survived despite burns affecting around 28 per cent of their bodies. Pictured, their home following the explosion
Recalling the incident, Jessica, who is engaged to her sons’ father Michael, said: ‘We’d had a perfect little morning and I pulled up at the house so I text Michael to say “see you in a bit” because he would have been driving home from work then.
‘We opened the door to the house and it was just an overwhelming smell of gas. Reuben my eldest said “oh my gosh, what’s that smell?”
‘I did panic a little bit so I said to them to sit on the sofa and not to move – which I’m really grateful they did because I can’t even bear to think if they had followed me to the kitchen.
‘I walked into the kitchen to the oven because that was the only gas thing that we had. I don’t know if there was gas coming out of the hob or not but I literally went to turn the dial to check and it just blew up.’
Jessica was trapped in the kitchen at the back of the property while the boys were in the living room at the front.
The distraught mother can still describe in painstaking detail the exact moment which changed her family’s life forever – and her heartbreak of hearing her sons (pictured) crying out for help in the living room while she was stuck in the kitchen
Covered in rubble and the family’s big American style fridge, Jessica could hear her boys crying for help but was unable to move.
‘I just started screaming, shouting for help,’ she said. ‘I literally thought that’s it, we’re going to die.’
The explosion was felt by the entire village and within minutes, several witnesses rushed to the scene, trying to get Jessica and the boys from the wreckage.
‘I was just lying there screaming and all of a sudden a load of men ran in and I was just like “Where are my boys? I need my boys?” There was one man trying to get rubble off me but I was scared that he’d move something which would mean more would collapse.
‘I could see the tiniest gap between the fridge and getting out so I just said “stop, I’m going to force myself out”. So I did, just literally push myself out because I just wanted to get out of there you know, I was so scared.’
Somehow Jessica managed to free herself from the wreckage and walk up the dozen or so stairs in her back garden – which she says she still can’t quite understand how she managed.
In a now closed investigation, South Wales Police concluded that the huge explosion was most likely caused by a ‘combination of ageing LPG gas (gas which is stored in cylinders or bottles) and environmental conditions’. Pictured, Jessica with her partner before the blast, while pregnant with one of her sons
‘I had a load of steps up the back garden and I just walked up them away from the house, and looking back how I did that I don’t know. I think when it happens it’s just adrenaline running through you, you’re in a daze I suppose,’ she said.
By this point, Jessica’s fiancé Michael had returned from work to be presented with an unthinkable scene.
‘He ran up to me and I can remember his face. I’ll never forget the shock on his face,’ said Jessica. ‘I said “where’s the boys” and he said he didn’t know, he said he’s seen Reuben but didn’t know where Elliott was which made me freak out.’
The boys were airlifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where they were treated for serious injuries for three weeks – including burns which have affected around 28 per cent of their bodies.
Jessica – who felt the full force of the explosion – was rushed to Morriston Hospital and placed into an induced coma.
She spent 14 weeks in hospital being treated for a punctured lung, several broken ribs and her kidneys were failing. She has also suffered serious burns to 70 per cent of her body.
Jessica (pictured) was trapped in the kitchen at the back of the property while the boys were in the living room at the front
While the boys were in hospital, Michael stayed with them in Bristol. The coronavirus pandemic made things much more difficult for the family with Jessica initially only able to have visitors through a glass panel.
When Jessica woke from the induced coma after a month she remembered what had happened but had no idea whether her sons had survived.
She said: ‘Lots of people have said it’s crazy how you remember everything after all that but I can picture every detail in my head, I can remember everything. I didn’t know what the house looked like but when I saw pictures I was in shock.
‘I just thought “how did we survive that?” The boys were on the sofa, they’re so little and I’m so glad we did but I can’t believe we all made it out of there. It’s a miracle really.’
Jessica spent 14 weeks in hospital being treated for a punctured lung, several broken ribs and her kidneys were failing. She has also suffered serious burns to 70 per cent of her body. Pictured, her home following the blast
In a now closed investigation, South Wales Police concluded that the huge explosion was most likely caused by a ‘combination of ageing LPG gas and environmental conditions’.
LPG stands for Liquid Pressure Gas – meaning gas that is stored in cylinders or bottles as opposed to gas that is supplied through mains pipes.
The explosion was likely caused by a combination of old gas cylinders and hot weather – 14 homes were evacuated while the investigation took place.
Jessica was released from hospital at the start of October and the family have moved into an empty house belonging to a relative.
Her injuries meant that over the last four months, the mother has had to learn how to walk and talk again. As well as the coma, she had a Tracheostomy which is a procedure that creates an opening in the throat to allow air to enter a person’s lungs.
Both boys have now returned to school at Ysgol Golwyg Y Cwm in Ystradgynlais where Jessica worked as a pre-school leader before the explosion.
Jessica (pictured with her partner) was released from hospital at the start of October and the family have moved into an empty house belonging to a relative
She explained that two-year-old Elliott is too young to understand what happened, but five-year-old Reuben often talks about the accident.
Jessica said: ‘Like me, he remembers everything which I think is just incredible but it has been hard listening to him talk about what happened.
‘He said once to me “did you hear us crying”? I said “yeah” and he asked “why didn’t you come to us?” and I just thought as their mother that’s what I should be doing but I couldn’t, I was trapped. Little things like that are heartbreaking.
‘But they’re doing really good, children are just so resilient. They still have their burns so we’re creaming them and massaging them. They literally didn’t have a scratch on them apart from their burns, which again is so amazing.
‘Obviously I wish they didn’t have any at all, but we’re all still here,’ she added.
Since the explosion, Jessica has had to come to terms with how it has affected her physical appearance, as well as her health.
Jessica’s (pictured) injuries meant that over the last four months, the mother has had to learn how to walk and talk again. As well as the coma, she had a Tracheostomy which is a procedure that creates an opening in the throat to allow air to enter a person’s lungs
She said that her injuries mean she is not able to be as active or as involved when playing with the children as she once was.
‘Things like getting on the floor and playing, I get frustrated with not being able to – but Michael’s been amazing, he’s stepped up so much,’ she said. ‘I’m getting there and I’m doing little things to try and build myself back up.
‘I’m doing my best and I’m so determined to get back to how I was – I’ve got to, for my boys.’
Following the blast, more than £22,000 has been raised to help rebuild the family home, with local tradesmen volunteering to help.
The family had lived on Church Road for five years before the incident. They had moved there when Reuben was one, and it was the only home Elliott had ever known.
The re-build is now well underway, with work to clear the site and assess the damage starting just a month after the explosion. Jessica said the family are ‘blown away’ by the kindness of the community.
‘The support we’ve had has just been incredible, I can’t thank everyone enough,’ she said. ‘Everyone’s been so supportive. Friends and family, they’ve just done everything.
‘And then there’s the community, we’ve had so many donations. Clothes, toys for the boys, money – the amount of money that’s been raised has been incredible.’
Jessica and the family are now living around a mile from their previous home. Despite this, Jessica admitted it is still too difficult to revisit the scene of the blast.
‘I have been past in the car and had a quick look but I can’t bring myself to stop and be there yet. It’s hard to get my head around at the minute really,’ she confessed.
The family lost everything during the explosion, but for Jessica sentimental items such as photographs and scrapbooks of the boys as babies were worth the most to her. Sadly, the family’s pet cat also died in the explosion.
‘Everything was lost. People managed to get a few toys out and things like that but I’m quite a sentimental person,’ said Jessica. ‘I know photos can be replaced but things like that are just heartbreaking. One of our cats died there as well. Our whole lives just got ripped apart in there.’
Looking to the future, while Jessica realises she still has a long road to recovery, she is remaining positive and wants to continue working to get back to herself.
‘Whether I will go back to how I was, nobody knows – but I’m going to try my best because I’ve got to really. I’ve got to for my boys. It’s crazy that it happened. I still think about it every day. Millions of things go through my mind… but I just want to move forward.’
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World news – GB – South Wales home gas explosion: Woman and sons fought for life