Neighbour broke blast victim’s fall

Hereo: Charles Mills went to the assistance  of the householder caught in the explosion .
Hereo: Charles Mills went to the assistance of the householder caught in the explosion .
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HERO neighbour Charles Mills relived his desperate bid to save Dennis Popplewell’s life.

Mr Mills, aged 57, rushed across the road to help after his house shook to the sound of two explosions coming from his neighbour’s home.

He told The Star: “I heard two loud bangs and jumped up to see all the windows had been blown out of the house opposite.

“I went dashing outside and could not see the occupant at first. But then he stood up at one of the windows upstairs.

“He looked terrible, he was in total shock, and he looked like he wanted to climb out.”

Mr Mills said he and other neighbours tried desperately to persuade Dennis to stay where he was while they found ladders to help him down.

“We were all shouting at him not to jump and that we were getting some ladders,” Mr Mills said.

“But then he just fell forward, head first.

“I was underneath and I managed to break his fall.

“There was no way I was going to let him smash his head on the ground.

“The fire had already started but it began to really take hold after he fell out, so three of us lifted him away from the flames to a grass verge and covered him up.”

Mr Mills spoke on the phone to the emergency services, who gave him tips to keep Dennis alive.

“I was told by ambulance staff to try to keep him talking so that’s what I concentrated on. He was in a lot of pain and couldn’t get comfortable. As well as the burns all his hair had gone.”

Neighbour Cherisse Akrigg, 26, who dialled 999 to report the gas blast and fire, said Mr Mills and other locals were heroes.

“They all did a fantastic job,” she said. “You could see how badly injured he was.”

She added: “I was fast asleep when I heard a huge boom and looked outside to see flames coming from all but one of the windows. Other neighbours were already out and yelling at Dennis to stay where he was until they got him a ladder, but then he seemed to flop out head first.”

A police and fire investigation into the cause of the blaze is underway.