Bognor gas evacuation '˜could have been much worse'

Residents have spoken of their shock after being forced to evacuate their homes in the early hours when an out of control car created a trail of destruction.

Monday, 11th April 2016, 5:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:41 pm
Harry and Linda Poulastides' house 'took the brunt' of the damage from the out of control car. Picture by Eddie Mitchell

A green Ford Puma demolished a lamppost, telegraph pole and road sign before damaging at least three houses along Westloats Lane and then crashing into a parked car.

The incident happened at 1.55am this morning, Monday, April 11, and caused a gas main to rupture, meaning as many as 30 people had to be evacuated.

They were taken to the nearby Felpham Leisure Centre, where they were forced to wait for several hours before they could return at around 5am.

The green Ford Puma involved

The front of Harry and Linda Poulastides’ house was badly cracked, while gas and water spilled from outside meters.

Harry said: “I think we took the brunt of it, the whole front has been smashed in.

“I think the whole front will have to be rebuilt. But it could have been worse, luckily no one was hurt.

“We were asleep and my wife heard it. I looked out of the top window and thought at first it was just my fence down.

At least three houses along Westloats Lane were damaged, along with a parked car

“But then I went downstairs and couldn’t get out my front door because it was so bent.

“I managed to get out and my gas and water metre was completely gone. They were so badly damaged I couldn’t turn them off, water was pouring everywhere and the smell of gas was so strong.

“The police and fire brigade and ambulance turn up and they got everyone on our side out.

“These are all new homes, we’ve only lived here for 18 months.”

The damaged car

The family next-door also saw their gas and water meters completely destroyed, along with the paving stones outside their front door.

The owner described the sound of the bang as ‘like really loud thunder’ and said he had kept his four young children off school today because they were so tired.

Kay and William Sayer, who live in the next house along, saw damage to their car.

Kay said: “We had ambulance, fire engines, police, you name it, we had it.

Around 30 people had to be evacuated to Felpham Leisure Centre, where they stayed for several hours. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell

“The smell of gas was dreadful. We got evacuated to the corner of the street and the gas blew towards us, we all felt sick.

“We’re taking the car to the garage now but we think it’s a write off.

“There could have been lives lost, if it had been during the day I dread to think what would have happened.”

Kay added: “The police were absolutely wonderful, I’m not sure what we would have done without them. And Felpham Leisure Centre called all their staff in to look after us.”

Seven houses were evacuated and had to wait until around 5am before they could return to their homes.

The driver of the car, a 19-year-old man from Walberton, was taken to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester for treatment to injuries not believed to be serious and was kept in for observation overnight, police said.

Police stood down from the incident as the road was reopened at 6.35am.

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