A family home destroyed in a gas blast that injured a mother and her two children has been rebuilt for £50,000 by kindly neighbours – after discovering the property was uninsured.
Jessica Williams, 34, was critically ill following the explosion, and her sons Reuben, eight, and Elliot, five, were also harmed in the accident that reduced their home to a bomb site.
Ms Williams survived, but on awaking from a coma she discovered the house in Seven Sisters in Neath, Wales, had no home insurance.
A massive campaign was launched by the community to help rebuild the family home, with even complete strangers volunteering to help. Now, three years on from the accident, the family has a brand new home.
Ms Williams said: ‘Our home had to be completely rebuilt from scratch after being reduced to no more than a pile of rubble. We could not have done it without so many wonderful people.
Before and after: The destroyed house, left, and the new build replacing it again, seen right
Jessica Williams with partner Mike outside their rebuilt home thanks to the residents
Jessica Williams with partner Mike and Reuben Elliot before the explosion that destroyed the house
A pregnant Jessica Williams with her partner Mike before the explosion destroyed the house
‘We’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness of our community and complete strangers who have given their time and money completely free.
‘When I think back to that terrible day three years ago, I know how lucky we are to even be alive. It feels so incredibly emotional to know that we are going to be moving back into our home at last.’
The family survived the explosion at their home in when they were pulled from the rubble by neighbours in June 2020.
Ms Williams was trapped under a large American fridge while she heard her boys scream for help.
South Wales Police concluded the explosion was most likely caused by a ‘combination of ageing liquid pressure gas and environmental conditions’.
Now the house has been reduced thanks to volunteers offering labour, donations and their time – with the family expected to be back in by Christmas.
The family’s home on the day of the explosion in June 2020 which completely devastated the building and injured the mother and two sons
Jessica and Mike are pictured inside their rebuilt home delighted to be back and inside
Jessica Williams is pictured in hospital recovering from the blast after coming out of a coma
Jessica Williams inside the house before the gas explosion ripped through the Wales home
Ms Williams said: ‘Our boys are very excited about decorating their bedrooms. Elliot is football mad. He supports Arsenal and wants his room to be decorated with lots of Cristiano Ronaldo things. That footballer is his hero.
‘Reuben absolutely loves his Xbox and wants his bedroom to have a gaming theme.
‘All I want is my candles and TV and a big warm blanket over me to just feel like I am home again.
‘Elliot was just one when the explosion happened so he can’t remember very much about it thankfully, but Reuben was five and he remembers everything and he is nervous and suffers from anxiety still.’
Ms Williams was rushed to Morriston Hospital in Swansea after being rescued by neighbours before she was placed into an induced coma.
She spent 14 weeks in hospital being treated for a punctured lung, broken ribs and failing kidneys.
She also suffered serious burns to 70 per cent of her body and was unable to speak, swallow or eat.
Sons Reuben and Elliot were air-lifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where they spent three weeks being treated for serious injuries.
Pictured here is Jessica Williams in hospital recovering from the blast, he limbs covered in bandages
Jessica added: ‘There are no words to really comprehend how grateful we are to all the people who have made it possible for us. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to them all.’
Jessica Williams proudly posing up inside her home before the devastating explosion went off
Ms Williams’ fiancé Michael David, 37, spent his time travelling between the two hospitals to visit Jessica and the boys.
She said: ‘On top of everything we had had no house insurance.
‘We’d cancelled the policy because Michael said we’d been paying too much and we could get a better deal. But we hadn’t got round to setting it up.
‘We had lost absolutely everything we owned materially.
‘I thought of the sentimental things that we would never get back. The memory boxes I’d made for the children of their birth things, their first photographs and they had lost every single one of their toys.
‘But we are alive and here. It is miraculous that we are alive and that the house is back.
‘When you look at the state that the house was in, to think that we all survived, it’s just a miracle really. I’m just grateful that we’re all here.
‘The people around here are saving our lives and they are rebuilding our lives for us through pure kindness. It’s so overwhelming.’
She added: ‘Michael has been an absolute rock to us all. He’s been truly amazing. It was horrific for him too – rushing between two hospitals 80 miles apart wondering if we were going to pull through.’
Ms Williams has now returned to work as a pre-school leader in the same school her boys went to.
She said: ‘I did wonder if our house being rebuilt was ever going to happen but now here we are.
‘The worst thing that has ever happened to us has shown us what wonderful people are out there. It’s changed my outlook on life completely.
‘I appreciate the small joys in life so much more now – a good cup of coffee, a walk in the park, watching a sunset.
‘I did a 20-minute run the other day and I thought back to three years ago how I couldn’t even walk. It makes me realise how far I have come.
‘Our physical scars are healing well but the emotional ones will take longer. I still have to moisturise my scars every day. The boys have had surgeries and may need more in the future as they grow but for now everything is good.
‘There are no words to really comprehend how grateful we are to all the people who have made it possible for us. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to them all.’
One of those who helped, local builder Huw, sifted through tons of rubble to salvage personal belongings.
‘It took us two to three weeks per year because we were picking through quietly trying to save everything,’ Huw said. ‘It’s not about getting paid or not – it’s getting their memories back.’