Farmworker’s death may lead to gas safety review

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Michal Josef Kmuk died two days after suffering 80 per cent burns when gas from a leaking pipe ignited as he lit a cigarette in the St Clement property.

Concluding an inquest into Mr Kmuk’s death yesterday, Deputy Viscount Advocate Mark Harris said he intended to send a report to the Chief Minister to see if any changes needed to be made to current legislation.

The inquest heard that unlike in the UK there were no regulations ordering that any work carried out on gas supplies or appliances should be undertaken by an officially approved engineer.

Advocate Harris also called on landlords to check their properties and their utilities after it emerged that the leaking pipe had previously been patched up with a piece of electrical installation tape. It is not known who carried out the work.

The ‘valiant’ efforts of Mr Kmuk’s neighbours, who smashed their way into the property on Les Tours Farm, on Rue des Nouettes, to pull the conscious 40-year-old father of one to safety before switching off the gas and dousing the flames, were also praised by Advocate Harris and the police.

Neighbours ran to Mr Kmuk’s home after hearing two explosions at about 12.20 am on Saturday 23 September.

A statement was read out on behalf of one of Mr Kmuk’s rescuers, Lukasz Kilia, who had been a volunteer firefighter in Poland.

It said: ‘I picked up a roofing tile and started to break the glass front door because it was locked.

‘I saw Michal on the floor. He was in a half-lying, half-sitting position. His whole body and face were burnt. There was dark thick smoke under the ceiling. I told him not to move. At that point Krzysztof Rog came behind me and followed me into the flat.’

The pair carried Mr Kmuk through the broken glass and as Mr Rog comforted his friend, Mr Kilia switched the gas and power off and extinguished the flames.

Meanwhile, neighbour Jolanta Smolen suffered burns to her arm as she helped Mr Kmuk, the inquest heard.

Mr Kmuk was taken to the Hospital before being airlifted the following day to the burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. His injuries were non-survivable and he died from multi-organ failure on Monday 25 September.

Mark Johnson, area commander for Jersey Fire and Rescue Service, said the leaking pipe, which was in the bedroom, had once been fitted to a heater.

Initially all the housing units, which were constructed in 1992 and later rented out to the Jersey Royal Company, had heaters but they were removed at some point during the late 1990s.

Mr Johnson said in his professional opinion the ‘gas pipes should have been mechanically fixed to the wall following the removal of the heaters’ as they would have been prone to being knocked, making them susceptible to leak.

‘This particular piping unit was very close to the bed,’ he said. ‘The occupier would have come out of the bed and often kick this pipe, I would have thought.’

During the investigation, it was discovered that a piece of electrical installation tape had been applied to the leaking gas pipe. Mr Johnson described this as ‘an occupier’s fix’.

Jersey Gas last undertook a check on the property in 2016, the hearing heard. There was some discrepancy about who had removed the heaters.

Stuart Crossman, director at Jersey Gas, told fire investigators that the company’s records went back to 2002 but added that he did not think the company would have left the pipes in the condition they were.

Kevin Hervé, the property owner, told the inquest: ‘I’m a responsible man. I’m absolutely horrified this has happened. That is why I always used Jersey Gas – they are the experts.’

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