NEW FERRY EXPLOSION: Four years since furniture store was blown up
Four years ago, on March 25, 2017, Pascal Blasio deliberately blew up his Merseyside furniture store.
The resulting explosion at Homes in Style on Bebington Road in New Ferry, Wirral, injured 81 people and caused devastation to nearby homes and businesses.
To mark the fourth anniversary of the dreadful day, the LDRS has spoken to some of the victims about the blast and its impact on their lives .
Ann Grimes, 48, runs The Cleveland Arms, a pub located just a few doors away from the blast.
Ms Grimes still lives in Wirral, outside of New Ferry, with her three children, Daniel, 23, Stephanie, 22, and Connah, 14.
Stephanie was caught in the blast, as she was working at the pub.
Ms Grimes was not present when the explosion happened, but rushed to the scene within minutes as soon as she heard about it.
Ms Grimes said: “When we got there, the police pushed us back. My daughter and sister worked that shift and they didn’t know what had happened.
“One of the regulars said it must have been a car bomb.”
While the day itself was painful, what followed was perhaps more difficult for Ms Grimes.
She continued: “I had to close the business, as much as I fought for it, while it was repaired.
“We had no funds, me, my brother-in-law and my sister fixed the walls and re-plastered them.
“We had bailiffs knocking on the door, they were saying our TV sport package wasn’t being paid for.
“That moment was horrific, sheer torture for us all. I was a single mum trying to establish a business, I’d just asked my sister to be my work partner when all this happened.”
The Cleveland Arms was able to reopen in September 2017, but even now the upstairs floor cannot be used due to the blast.
Reflecting on how she feels four years on, Ms Grimes added: “I still struggle, it’s still there.
“There’s still four or five buildings opposite the pub which are derelict.”
She said: “It sticks in my throat, I can’t let that go, it still boils my blood.”
Wirral Council was criticised for its response to the blast, both in terms of the perceived lack of mental health support and financial support it was offering to those who had their lives turned upside down.
The authority did award residents made homeless and traders forced to close an equal share of a £200,000 hardship fund in 2019.
Better days may lie ahead for New Ferry, as the council is pushing ahead with plans for up to 79 homes and more than 1,000 square metres of retail space in and around the road where the blast took place.
It is understood that the remaining derelict buildings left behind by the blast are earmarked for demolition as part of the regeneration plan and once the council has finalised key agreements it will demolish the whole block and clear it for redevelopment.
Speaking about New Ferry in February, Cllr Anita Leech, chair of Wirral Council’s economy and regeneration committee, said: “The council has made good progress, through an investment of more than £1.3m, on acquiring pockets of land across the three sites and now is the time for us to conclude the purchase of the remaining land.
“This is essential to avoid any delays in appointing a development partner to bring these much-needed regeneration plans to fruition as quickly as possible.”
Christopher Lee Power, 52, lives just a few doors away from the explosion site.
His wife and child were out at the time of the blast but he was in and experienced it alone.
He explained the shocking events of four years ago. Mr Lee Power said: “Suddenly there was a bang and the windows and glass smashed everywhere.
“I ran to the window to have a quick look out, I thought it was a bomb initially. My instinct was to survive, so I ran through the house to a car park, I wanted to be away from the blast.”
But after hearing shouting he went back. Mr Lee Power continued: “I noticed the impact the blast had on the house, with glass smashed everywhere.
“I became weak out of shock and ended up standing by a lamppost in the road just watching people run up and down the road for hours.”
For a long time after this, the blast was a vivid memory in his mind, particularly as he was forced out of his home.
But two years later he was able to return and rebuild his career as an actor.
Once progress was made with getting money for victims of the blast, Mr Lee Power felt that he could move forward.
Although the events of that fateful day will never be forgotten, Mr Lee Power said he is quite happy at the moment: “The council is doing something nice with the blast site and the empty spaces and I’m looking forward to seeing the hustle and bustle of people in the town centre once again.”
Reflecting on the explosion itself and looking forward to the future, Labour councillor Jo Bird, who represents the area, said: “Our community has worked hard for justice for New Ferry [over] the last few years.
“A thousand people marked the two year anniversary with the Into the Light lantern procession and singing.
“Well over 100 residents made homeless and traders forced to close each received an equal share of a £200,000 hardship fund from Wirral Council in 2019. Remaining funds went into amazing murals on New Chester Road.
“As an elected local councillor, I led many meetings and public scrutiny into lessons learned from this major incident. Wirral Council has improved the explosion site itself.
“The New Ferry Community Land Trust is bringing empty property back into use.”
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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