Man admits charges over fatal gas explosion

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FIERY BLAST: Experts were called in to investigate the gas explosion at the house in Ruakaka. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
FIERY BLAST: Experts were called in to investigate the gas explosion at the house in Ruakaka. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

A Northland home owner charged after a young woman died in a gas explosion has pleaded guilty to charges relating to the woman's death.

Peter John McLeod, 73, appeared in Whangarei District court today and admitted charges of undertaking an unauthorised gas fitting, failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that gas appliances were safe and completing gas work where not authorised to do so.

Energy Safety, which is part of WorkSafe NZ, laid the charges following the death of Lesley Anita Wehi-Jack, 19, who died in Middlemore Hospital on February 12 last year.

Ms Wehi-Jack was critically injured, suffering burns to 70 per cent of her body, when she entered the Ruakaka house she was renting in Tamure Dr and a gas appliance exploded. She had been in the home little over a week at the time. The force of the explosion rocked neighbouring homes.

A coroner's inquest into Ms Wehi-Jack's death had been due to get underway today, but has been postponed.

McLeod will be sentenced next month.

Ms Wehi-Jack had just arrived home from work about 8.30pm and opened the door when the explosion ripped through her house. Badly burned, she managed to get outside the house where she was helped by neighbours who doused her with a garden hose. She was rushed to Northland Base Hospital in a serious condition but died surrounded by family less than 24 hours later.

Nearby resident Jill Russell, 79, said she heard "a huge bang from about a mile away".

She ran outside and saw flames shooting through the roof.

Mrs Russell saw Ms Wehi-Jack outside the house with burns to her face and her clothes torn, and went to her aid.

"It was terrible," Mrs Russell said.

At the time, specialist fire investigator Craig Bain said the explosion resulted from a faulty gas appliance in the kitchen area and called in an energy-safety inspector from Wellington and a gas-fire investigation specialist from Auckland to help examine the scene.

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