FAMILY members have told of their devastation after their home in Whyke was destroyed by a lightning strike.
But the Gilbert family also wanted to thank neighbours and emergency services for all their help and support on the day.
Last Thursday, the Gilberts’ home in Mumford Place was struck by lightning and much of the house was destroyed by fire and smoke.
The lightning bolt struck the chimney of the terraced house at around 1.30pm and was heard throughout the city. It destroyed much of the house, with only one room spared.
Tracey Gilbert, the daughter of Val and Glyn Gilbert who lived in the house, recalled her mum turning up at the scene, and saying: “I can’t believe it we’ve lost everything.”
The family bought the house 27 years ago, and now much of the home and their belongings are destroyed, leaving their lives in the hands of the insurance company.
“They’re devastated,” said Tracey. “Everything they’ve worked for is gone.”
But the family is grateful Val and Glyn, and son Tim, were out of the house at the time.
“I only left the house for three minutes,” said Val.
“I went around to the shop to get a paper.”
Her son, Tim, would usually be in at that time, as he works night shifts, but he had decided to go shopping that day.
Relieved that no-one was in the home, Tracey said: “It was fate. Someone’s looking after us.”
The family expressed their gratitude to neighbours, who saved the family’s five dogs and parrot.
Their neighbour Dave Tilley was one of the first into the house, after he saw Tim’s car and thought he was in the bedroom.
“I went in through the front window and turned the gas and electric off,” said Dave. “I knew there were animals in there, but I could see Tim’s car – I thought he was up in the bedroom.
“I got two of the dogs out. I went upstairs, I was looking for Tim, but the bedroom was on fire. I could see he wasn’t on the bed, but the walls were blown out and there was brick rubble behind the door.
“It was some fire though. I’m just so glad nobody was there.”
Val said Dave was a ‘hero’.
Nathan Thair was another neighbour who helped to rescue the Gilberts’ dogs.
The couple’s daughter Amanda said: “A really big thank you from all the family. They were a big support, all of them. They couldn’t ask for better neighbours.”
An emotional Val added: “Me and my husband Glyn would also like to thank the family for their support.”
IT could take up to six months for the family to return to their home after lightning struck the roof.
The strike hit the chimney, causing the gas fires to blow out and two upstairs bedrooms to catch fire.
This caused damage throughout the house, with holes in the walls from the blast and rubble strewn throughout the building. The family had home and contents insurance, so are waiting to get the go-ahead from the insurance company before they begin to rebuild their lives and home. Val, Glyn and Tim are staying with family in Hunston.
Most of the utility companies had been helpful, said Val, as the gas and electric supply to the house is cut off.
But telecoms firm Sky had said the family must continue to pay the monthly television and phone fee, or face a £400 cancellation charge.
“I just asked them to put it on hold until we move back in,” said Val.
The lightning strike also blew the fuses of electrical items in homes throughout Mumford Place.
THE family had plenty of thank yous for their neighbours and emergency services who have helped and supported them in the past week.
They were grateful to Dave Tilley, Nathan Thair, and other neighbours who saved the family’s pets.
Quick-thinking Dave also turned off the gas, preventing further damage: “If it wasn’t for Dave the whole house would have been up in flames,”
said Val. “He was a total hero.”
She thanked neighbour Alison, who took in their dogs and the parrot as the family came to terms with what had happened: “The main man from the fire brigade, he stayed until 7pm,” said Val. “He was brilliant.”
The Red Cross turned up to give the family support and advice, and the community warden was on the scene to make sure the family were okay.
“We never knew there were people out there like that,” said Val.
She said Tesco in Fishbourne were fundraising for the family, and providing them with items like quilts, which they lost in the fire.
Amanda said: “We can’t believe it, how amazing people are.”