Wirral explosion: Critically-ill blast victim 'had just left home'

Lewis Jones with his mother Maureen Image copyright Merseyside Police
Image caption Mrs Jones said Lewis was a "real joker", who was also "very kind and sensitive"

A critically-ill man injured in a suspected gas blast had just left his home "just a couple of minutes before the explosion", his family have said.

Lewis Jones, 21, had stepped out to see friends when the explosion ripped through New Ferry, Wirral, on Saturday.

His family said they unsuccessfully tried his phone in the aftermath, but it was "only when we went outside that we found out what had happened".

A woman was also seriously injured in the blast, which hurt 31 others.

Merseyside Police said the woman has since been discharged from hospital.

'Kind and sensitive'

In a joint statement, Mr Jones's mother Maureen and older brother Jonathan said the 21-year-old left their house close to the blast site "just a couple of minutes before the explosion".

"After... we rang his phone, because we had no idea which direction he had gone in, but it was switched off.

"It was only when we went outside that we found out what had happened."

Mrs Jones said that as a mother, "you always worry about your children going out... but you don't expect something like this to happen just a few minutes from home".

Image caption An aerial view shows the huge extent of the damage

The pair said the Everton fan was a "real joker", who was also "very kind and sensitive".

A police spokesman said Mr Jones was being treated at The Walton Centre in Liverpool, a hospital which specialises in neurology and spinal services.

Everton ambassador Graeme Sharp said the thoughts of the club were with Mr Jones and his family, adding that everyone there was "all deeply saddened to hear of what Lewis is going through".

Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Wirral Borough Council, the Health and Safety Inspectorate and the National Grid are continuing to jointly investigate the cause of the explosion.

A number of shops and businesses within the original blast cordon have now reopened, the council said.

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