Family's law change plea after house explosion

House on fire after gas explosion in Halifax
Gwen McLaughlin suffered serious burns after the explosion at her home in Halifax [BBC]

A woman is campaigning for a law change after being told no-one is liable for the gas explosion which destroyed her parents' house and left her mother with life-changing injuries.

Liam and Gwen McLaughlin's Halifax home blew up in December 2020 after a pipe under the public footpath outside fractured and leaked gas into the property.

But the family has been left distraught after being told that Northern Gas Networks (NGN) does not have to pay compensation because of a clause in safety regulations.

NGN said it had "every sympathy" with the family but that "no wrongdoing" had been found by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation.

Gwen was left with 36% burns from the explosion and suffered a stroke while in a coma in hospital. She eventually left hospital in a wheelchair, but died of lung cancer in January this year.

NGN was excused from liability on the grounds that the pipe in question was not due to be replaced for several years and the government has said it believes the law is "sufficient".

However, the couple's daughter, Gemma McLaughlin, has launched a petition to change the law so that the clause is scrapped.

Speaking to BBC Look North, Miss McLaughlin said: "I feel really angry that they're not accepting liability.

"Never in a million years would you expect something like this to happen. I wouldn't wish it on anybody. It's devastated us.

"The law needs to change because we are the public and we pay our bills and we need to be safe."

Miss McLaughlin said her mother's life completely changed after the incident, robbing her of her ability to socialise with friends and the job she loved.

She said her health was so poor, she was unable to have treatments for cancer which may have prolonged her life.

Miss McLaughlin added: "Everything my parents had worked for was gone.

"It was a lovely home. The photos of us as babies and growing up were all gone.

"I'm keeping the fight going for my mum. I miss her so much. We need some closure and we need to be able to move on with our lives, but we can't while this is still going on."

Mr McLaughlin still suffers from flashbacks more than three years after the explosion.

Recalling the incident, he said: "I've never heard a bang like it. Our window frames were 100 yards down the road.

"It just changed everybody's life completely. The whole house was collapsed.

"We're not going to give up. We're determined to move this petition on so no-one is in the same predicament again."

A spokesperson for NGN said: "Northern Gas Networks co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident on Green Lane which found no wrongdoing on the part of the company as the pipe was not due for replacement at the time of the incident.

"We have every sympathy for the McLaughlin family, but we cannot comment on any ongoing proceedings which may be related to the case.”

An HSE spokesperson said: “We thoroughly investigated this incident and found that there were no material breaches of health and safety regulations.”

In a letter to the McLaughlins' MP, Holly Lynch, who raised the family's case, government minister Chloe Smith said that, while she understood the concerns raised, "at present, I am satisfied that the existing law in this area is sufficient".

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