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Nurse Reveals Window Escape Terror Following Antigua Gas Blast Ordeal

A nurse whose dream of doing voluntary work in Antigua was ruined when she suffered serious injuries in a terrifying gas explosion at an apartment in the country is demanding answers over the ordeal which may have left her career in jeopardy.

Ms W was left with severe burns and a back injury which brought her once-in-a-lifetime trip to volunteer for St John’s Ambulance abroad to end after she was caught up in the blast – and forced to jump 20ft from the window of the burning flat to safety.

Now back in the UK and facing up to the prospect of never being able to work in nursing again, she is calling for answers as to how the devastating incident was allowed to happen and urging owners of holiday accommodation to improve gas safety standards.

Mrs W faced a number of problems with the cooking appliances which were provided by Connie’s Comfort Suites while she was renting an apartment from them following her arrival in Antigua in February this year.

She remembers: “The cooker was very temperamental and often wouldn’t light, but I had the same problems with a replacement they provided. I presumed the issue would be sorted once the gas cylinder was changed, but this only led to bigger problems.”

Remembering the explosion on April 5th 2011, Mrs W recalls: “I was woken up in the night by a loud hissing noise and alerted my friend, who was staying over.

“He was walking through the front of the apartment when all of a sudden there was a huge explosion and flames appeared everywhere. I was absolutely terrified.”

While Mrs Ws friend managed to escape out of the front door, she was left with a much more dangerous prospect.

She recalls: “The only way I could get of the apartment was through the back window, so that’s what I had to do.

“I barely thought about it at the time as the most important thing was to get to safety, but I had to climb out of the window and drop 20ft to the ground. It was only afterwards that either of us really noticed how badly injured we were. Being a Nurse, I knew I had to get water on the burns as soon as possible. I remembered there was a well nearby and we sat under the well and the water from this soothed our burns”

Ms W and her friend were treated for severe burns in a hospital in Antigua following the incident, but it was revealed on her return to the UK a month later that she had also suffered a compressed fracture to a vertebrae and post-traumatic stress disorder. She remains under the care of a consultant and GP and has also been unable to return to work.

Subsequent investigations into the explosion revealed that the gas cylinder in the kitchen had been leaking and, when the gas reached the pilot light of the cooker, it exploded.

Mrs W explains: “This incident has completely changed my life. Before it I was doing the job I love in Antigua and having an amazing experience.

“Now I’m facing the prospect of never working as a nurse again, as the back injury means it is incredibly painful for me to move. I’m also living with my daughter as I can’t afford to pay the mortgage on my own house because of not working.

“I lost everything in the explosion, now all I want is answers over what happened to me and how the same problems can be prevented in the future. I just want to ensure that no one else faces what I’ve been through and that more is done to improve gas safety standards abroad. However, I would like to say a massive thank you to the Antigua Royal Police Force, Fire Brigade and the Trauma team at the Mount St Johns Hospital in Antigua for their help during this horrific incident.”

Travel law experts at Irwin Mitchell are now representing Ms W in her battle for justice against the owners of Connie’s Comfort Suites, the complex where the shocking explosion took place.

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