A postman has told how he feels lucky to be alive, after being caught up in a huge explosion that shook an entire street and claimed the life of a 68-year-old man.
49-year-old Jonathan Roberts was driving his Royal Mail postal van in the Morriston area of Swansea on the morning of Monday, March 13, reports WalesOnline. His shift started at 6.15am and he was due to finish by around 1.30pm after what he said had been a largely uneventful morning.
It was about 11.20am when he was driving slowly towards a junction coming out onto Clydach Road. Then, everything changed. A huge explosion came from a semi-detached house on the corner of the street, destroying the property, substantially damaging the adjoining home and causing damage to several more.
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The force of the blast was such that Jonathan’s van was engulfed in a huge and thick cloud of dust and debris. Not fully understanding or realising what had just happened, he instinctively got out of the vehicle and tried to run for cover. Incredible footage from the scene was captured on CCTV which shows the postal van disappearing from view as it is buried under clouds of smoke, dust and debris, before a disorientated Mr Roberts tries to make his way to safety.
“I remember it quite clearly,” he said while continuing his recovery at home. “I was driving at about 5mph, coming to the end of the road. Then there was this really loud bang but I remember thinking that something had blown on the van or maybe someone had thrown a brick.
“I didn’t know what had happened. It all happened so quickly. I felt something coming from the side of the van, the windscreen smashed and all I could see were bricks landing all over it. I jumped over to the passenger side and out of the van. It must have just been instinct.”
After exiting the van in a haze, Jonathan made his way up the street, covered in dust and still unable to see the damage that had been caused to the property he had, seconds earlier, been driving alongside. He was helped at the scene by residents and a local courier driver who he was familiar with from his rounds. They all helped him regain his composure after what had just happened.
“Everyone was brilliant – the residents, the man who helped me, someone brought out a chair and gave me a glass of water,” he explained. “I was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t even hold the glass myself.
“The emergency services arrived at the scene and they were great – one woman from the fire service was cutting glass out of my face. Everyone who was there on the scene was brilliant. I was taken to Morriston Hospital in an ambulance later and was there for a few hours having x-rays. I was allowed home but had to return the next day for surgery because they thought glass had become embedded in my ear.” A council worker has described how he saw a little arm emerge from the debris of the explosion.
Jonathan’s relief at still being alive and being able to see his wife and three children again is somewhat tempered by the tragic consequences of the incident, with the explosion resulting in the death of 68-year-old Brian Davies. “I knew Brian somewhat,” he said. “I used to see him on my rounds and say hello. It was tragic what happened, and I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family.”
Jonathan, from Manselton, Swansea, has worked for the Royal Mail for 29 years and, incredibly, the route he was on at the time of the explosion is not one he works daily. He covers three different rounds in total and only works the one which covers the Clydach Road area one week in every month. Last Monday, when the explosion happened, was just his turn. Had it been the week before, or the week after, it could have been someone else driving past the scene at that time.
In another twist of fate, the footage of the incident shows Jonathan’s path being blocked for a few moments by a white van coming the other way. He stops his postvan for a critical few seconds and reverses to allow the white van to come forwards and pull in, before Jonathan can drive his van forwards again. It’s then that the house explodes. Had the white van not been there, or the situation played out slightly differently, Jonathan and his van might have been even closer to the explosion, maybe even directly alongside, and taken even more of an impact, of being completely buried beneath the rubble.
Jonathan’s wife, a mental health support worker in the Morriston area, was in work at the time of the explosion and did not immediately hear of what had happened or the fact that her husband had been caught up in such a terrifying ordeal. “Someone asked ‘did you hear that bang?’, but I was working in someone’s flat so I didn’t really hear anything,” said Donna Roberts.
“A short time later I had a text from Jonathan saying he had been in an accident, that he had a few cuts on his face and that he might need to go to the hospital. I thought he had been in a car crash or something. It was only when I rang him, and he sounded shaken up, that I found out what had happened. It’s a total relief that he is OK, but it was one of the scariest moments of our lives and it makes us appreciate just how lucky we are. Our youngest child, who is 10, thinks dad is a superhero.”
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More than a week on, Jonathan is still coming to terms with what happened and how fragile life can be. “I think it’s a miracle,” he said. “The force of that blast – how I walked away from that I don’t know. My face was covered in blood. My emotions are still up and down, and my sleeping is not great at the moment – it’s replaying in my mind. It just happened so quickly, and it was just such a normal day. It’s made me appreciate life and made me try not to worry about the little things.”
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