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I'M BLESSED TO STILL BE ALIVE; Gas blast victim reveals how he feels lucky that he was able to survive explosion that destroyed home and left him in hospital.

Byline: Julia McWatt

A MAN whose roof blew off when he turned on the ignition of his cooker has told how he closed his eyes and experienced a "serene moment" when his Cardiff flat exploded.

Richard Hopwood suffered 40% flash burns when a gas explosion tore apart his flat in Caerleon Close, St Mellons, on March 28.

The 45-year-old, who spent two weeks at Swansea's Morriston Hospital, said he felt "lucky and blessed" to have survived to tell the tale.

The Salvation Army worker, who has been left with scarring on his hands and arms, said: "I have to say, it's a great feeling to be alive. I look at the flat and it just seems that no-one could survive that.

"I have lost everything, but the main thing is that I am here to build it all back up."

On the day of the explosion, Mr Hopwood was off from work and decided to run a bath and prepare some lunch. He put some meatballs on to cook while running the bath before realising he needed to go to the shop.

Having gone back into the kitchen, he could not see a flame on the cooker so thought he had turned it off and left. He returned to the flat half-an-hour later and then had a bath.

He later went back into the kitchen to cook the meatballs but, as he turned on the ignition button, he heard a loud gushing noise and he knew what was going to happen.

He said: "My nose had been blocked and I could not smell anything. There had been no danger signs.

"As soon as I pressed the button I heard the noise of the gas being sucked in and I knew what had happened. There was no point in running away, there was no time. It was only about a second before the explosion, but it felt like a lifetime.

"I just felt really calm and at peace.

I closed my eyes and there was this serene moment. So much was going through my head - I thought that this was it but there was no panic."

heard in The explosion saw the whole of Mr Hopwood's first-floor flat collapse and glass from his windows was blown hundreds of feet away.

It was thanks to his neighbours, who came rushing to the property, that he was taken out of the flat and then to hospital by paramedics.

He said: "I knew I had survived when I heard the explosion. I did not feel anything but I was lying down in my lounge and looking at the sky.

"I was lying on my ceiling, which had collapsed. It's lucky I was not hit by anything.

"I could see the windows had been blown out and I managed to get up and look around.

"I heard the neighbours shouting and banging down the door so I just felt I had to sit down and wait for people to come to help me.

"I was taken outside and put on a chair. I started to feel sore by then but the paramedics arrived and I was taken to the Heath hospital and then to Morriston, where the staff were great.

"They thought I might have to have a skin graft but my body healed so well that is was not necessary."

I sucked He added: "They told me the work will be finished in January time and I have other accommodation until then. I'm not sure I will come back to this flat, I will have to see how I feel at the time. "At the moment, I feel really well. I am tired as my body is still recovering from the trauma, but it's been remarkably easy considering what could have happened."

* The only visible scars Richard endured... after suffering 40% flash burns

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* The scene after the explosion ripped through Richard Hopwood's flat in St Mellons, Cardiff
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 2, 2012
Words:655
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