By Karrie Gillett
AN 87-year-old blind man has been pulled from the rubble of his bedroom by neighbours after a suspected gas explosion gutted his home.
The blast at the bungalow of Frank Hastie and his wife Molly, 86, ripped through the entire home – leaving the front door blown out on to the street.
And the home in a quiet West Lothian cul-de-sac has now been demolished because of the extensive damage.
Residents in Loaninghill Park, Uphall, described the early-morning bang as a “loud wartime-like crash” and said it was a miracle the elderly couple managed to get out alive.
Tom Perry – whose house faces on to the Hastie’s – was first on the scene at around 7.45 this morning (THU) and pulled a collapsed bedroom wall off Mr Hastie as he lay in his bed.
Mr Perry said: “I was just up and about making some tea and toast for my wife when I hear an almighty boom.
“I didn’t have a clue what the noise could be and went to my front door to have a look.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw. Molly was just standing up as if she were about to go out the front door but the door was lying out in the street and the whole house was completely destroyed – you could see right through it.
“She was totally bewildered and when I asked her where Frank was, she just said he was in his bed.”
Brave Tom, 69, immediately stamped out a small fire at the door of the house and then ran into the bedroom where he found a confused Mr Hastie trapped in the bedroom.
He said: “When she said he was in bed I thought ‘Oh no, what am I going in here to see?’
“But I saw him lying underneath the rubble and he was shouting. He didn’t know what was going on. He is registered blind so he was really dazed and in shock.
“Luckily the walls are plasterboard so I was able to pull them off him quite easily and steer him out of the house.”
Mr Perry said the couple – who were taken to St John’s Hospital in Livingston with minor injuries – were extremely popular with their neighbours.
He said: “Lots of us came out into the street and I think everyone was fearing the worst until they saw Frank walking away and then there was just such relief.”
Another neighbour, James McIntosh, arrived minutes later to help in the rescue effort and said everyone looked out for each other in the street as most of the residents were elderly.
He said Frank – a retired blacksmith’s engineer – had lived there for more than thirty years and was extremely well-liked.
Mr McIntosh had been sleeping when the blast went off but rushed out of his house after hearing the tail-end of the bang.
He said: “It was like a war-time crash that you hear on the TV. At first, I thought it must have been two lorries crashing into each other.
“I went outside and just could not believe what I was seeing. The whole house was a pile of bricks and there were neighbours out standing in their dressing gowns so I knew it was something traumatic.
“When Frank was finally brought out of the house, a few of us ran forward and helped steer him away from the garden but he just kept trying to go back in. He kept saying he wanted to know what happened – he was very confused.
“I can’t believe no one was killed. The roof looks like it is about to collapse at any minute and I think the fact it is still there is probably what saved them.”
Fire officers and a team of Transco inspectors are now investigating the cause of the blast.
Incident commander Gordon Fisher of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue said it was incredible that the couple managed to walk away with minor injuries.
He said: “You can see the devastation caused by the explosion and for two elderly people to walk away is quite remarkable.”
Councillor Ellen Glass, who chairs the Broxburn Local Area Committee said that bringing the house to the ground was inevitable.
She said: “I visited the scene of the explosion and the house was very badly damaged. It was clear that demolition was the only option.
“I would like to thank all the emergency services and everyone involved for their prompt response to such a serious incident.”