Ipswich: Flat explosion survivor: “I remember a wall of bright orange... and then I woke up a week later in a hospital bed”

IPSWICH: I’m lucky to be alive. The man engulfed by a fireball which tore through his Ipswich flat today recalled the devastating explosion – and told how he is fortunate to have survived.

The man engulfed by a fireball which tore through his Ipswich flat today recalled the devastating explosion – and told how he is fortunate to have survived.

Richard Nicholls was at his home in Ellenbrook Green, Chantry when the blast – thought to have been caused by a redundant back boiler – ripped through the property.

The 34-year-old was left fighting for his life and, since the explosion on December 16, has undergone 14 gruelling operations at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, which specialises in treating burns victims. He faces a lengthy rehabilitation process before he can walk again.

Mr Nicholls also told how, upon his release from hospital last week, he was taken to the borough council customer service centre at the Town Hall and left to wait for help wearing his hospital pyjamas and without shoes or money.


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He has since been housed in the West Villa homeless unit in Ipswich – but has relied on pals to provide him with clothing and money.

“I was hoovering, listening to music and drinking a Magners,” recalled Mr Nicholls, who had taken the day off work to attend a dentist’s appointment.

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“I can remember the wall come towards me and it was bright orange.

“The next thing I knew I woke up a week later in a hospital bed.

“I had absolutely no idea what was going on and the doctors and nurses just kept saying I was very lucky.

“The hospital kept me knocked out for a while because I had to have so many operations and when I came round I was really disorientated.

“My legs were both shattered and I had about 14 operations to save them.

“I’ve had muscles and veins taken from other parts of my body and stuck in my legs.”

Mr Nicholls, who was born in England but lived in Canada for many years, was left with a broken chest bone, serious burns and shattered arms and legs among other injuries.

He has been told he has a long road to recovery ahead of him with a course of intensive physiotherapy before he is able to walk again.

He said: “The left-hand side of my body is burned up pretty bad but my face survived so I’m happy.”

The explosion gutted the first-floor flat and blew its windows on to the street below on December 16 leaving Mr Nicholls’s flatmate Phil Bowers and his daughter, Hannah, 11, homeless for Christmas.

Fortunately for Mr Bowers and Hannah, they were held up at a party and arrived home just minuted after the explosion erupted causing chaos.

n Have you got a message for Richard Nicholls? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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