A 19-year-old woman who emerged from a burning Northland house following an explosion was hosed down by neighbours until emergency services arrived.
The woman remained in Middlemore Hospital in a critical condition yesterday as police officers, a fire safety investigator and gas experts examined the damaged two-bedroom home at Tamure Place, in Ruakaka.
Whangarei police Detective Sergeant Shane Pilmer said the woman had third degree burns to about 90 per cent of her body as a result of the explosion about 8pm on Monday. She had moved into the house on Waitangi Day.
Initial investigations revealed a gas leak had caused the explosion.
Neighbour Grant Weston said he was hooking his boat up, preparing to go fishing the following morning, when he heard "kaboom''.
"I'd just noticed she had got home and had gone through the gate. She'd only been inside for about a minute or do.
"Then there was a huge flash which leapt out the front and the back of the house about three metres on either side. Then there were screams."
Mr Weston dashed inside, grabbed a cordless phone and dialled 111 and went back outside to help his new neighbour.
"As I got to the gate she was coming out of the house.
"I was talking to the emergency people on the phone. I looked at her and she looked me in the eye. I unlatched the gate and she went next door where they started hosing her down."
He was worried there may have been a small child with her at the time as he had seen her with a small boy a couple of times since she had moved in.
A neighbour known as James sprinted about 200 metres after hearing the explosion, grabbed a garden hose from next door and began hosing the woman.
Another neighbour, Dale Hutchinson, said he had been on the couch and was shunted back in the seat as a result of the explosion.
He told his partner, Desiree Goldsmith, to ring for an ambulance and went outside to help his neighbour.
"James kept talking to her and reassuring her and just kept hosing her down."
He said it only took about six minutes before St John arrived.
Fortunately, Ruakaka and Waipu volunteer fire brigades were training together about 1km from the house and were also on site quickly.
Ms Goldsmith said most of the flames were coming from the kitchen area at the back of the house, where gas bottles hung beneath the window.
"We heard 'help, help, help'."
Elizabeth Hutchinson said she felt the shockwave from the explosion in her home about 5km away.
"It was like the earth was vibrating in waves," she said.By Kristin Edge