A SHOCKED son has told how he turned up to his elderly mother’s house to check she was alright – only to see its roof blow off in a huge gas explosion.
Alfred Tuckey had to drag his blind, 76-year-old mother Juanita from her bungalow in Whitecraig, East Lothian last Friday after a gas leak from a cooker caused the blast.
The pensioner, who lives alone, was lucky to escape death in the horrific blast but was left with severe injuries and is recovering in hospital.
Alfred rushed into the house as soon as he saw the blast, as his terrified daughter tried to hold him back for his own safety.
Juanita, who had turned on the cooker to make some toast, is in a stable condition at St John’s hospital in West Lothian but suffered serious burns to her hands, arms, legs and face before Alfred pulled her from the ruined bungalow.
Medics told the family she was lucky to be alive after the blast, and inspectors deemed the house unsafe.
Mrs Tuckey’s family initially became concerned when she failed to call in at lunchtime as she usually does on answer her phone.
Alfred, 49, said: “She wasn’t answering her phone, I tried a few times and didn’t get an answer.
“Then I heard a message on my answering machine from the people who run the community alarm system saying it had been triggered.
“I thought there was something definitely wrong.”
Alfred then rushed to the house just before 1pm with his wife Pauline, daughter Lauren and her fiance, only to see the bungalow explode.
The family now think Juanita, who suffers from occasional blackouts, may have blacked out after putting the gas on, and fallen and triggered her alarm pendant.
He described how he rushed in to help his stricken mother, who is registered blind.
He said: “We were pulling into the parking space and saw the roof go off.
“My wife and my daughter started crying, they couldn’t believe it. I managed to kick open the door of the car but my daughter tried to pin me in the car.
“I managed to get free and get to the back gate and they grabbed me again.
“I could hear fumbling coming from inside, she had managed to unlock the door.
“When I opened the door she collapsed.”
Describing the scene, he said: “All I could smell when I got her was burning flesh and hair.
“She must have been in front of the cooker and been thrown across the room by the blast.”
“We were just trying to keep her conscious.”
He continued: “Her face had puffed up, her skin was peeling and when you tried to support her hair it just fell off, it was like powder.
“She was wearing tracksuit bottoms and they had melted and stuck to her.”
He said he dragged her out the house and sat her on a nearby chair before paramedics arrived.
But he said his dash to his mother’s door was not made out of bravery: “I wouldn’t call it courageous, it’s my mother, I would do the same for any member of my family.
“It’s just instinctive. I knew whoever was inside would be hurt, it’s just a case of going and getting them out.”
The family followed the ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and later Juanita was transferred to St John’s hospital’s burns unit in West Lothian.
He continued: “Afterwards all she said was she had been out walking her dog , she got back in, lit the grill to make toast and let the dog out.
“That’s all she can remember until the blast.”
“We’re all concerned about her, but the main thing is she’s still here.
“Everyone from the emergency services were saying they’re surprised she’s still here.”
Inspectors are currently looking into what caused the blast, which led to neighbours being evacuated from nearby buildings.
A spokesman for East Lothian council said: “The council’s priority has been to stabilise the damaged structure of the house so that it is safe to enter.
“Now that this has been done, agencies such as health and safety and Scottish Gas will investigate.
“In the meantime, the council’s buildings repair staff are assessing what structural repairs will be needed to enable Mrs Tuckey to return to her home as soon as possible.”