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Hilltop explosion: ‘I thought it was an earthquake because the house moved’

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The Hilltop Court apartment block in Southampton where an explosion took place on May 2, 2022 (File photograph supplied)

Residents remembered how their homes shook when a fatal explosion took place at a neighbouring apartment block a year ago today.

A “huge boom” was heard by people in the area when the blast happened at Hilltop Court in Southampton on May 2, 2022.

Oscar and Jove Mascarinas were injured in the blast and later pronounced dead.

Nichole McHardy said last week that she regularly visited her mother’s home, where she was when the incident happened at about 8.50pm.

The spot at Hilltop Court now, where an explosion happened a year ago (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

She explained: “My mom and I, we always watch TV in her room ... it was a big explosion of course and the roof of her bedroom shifted to the left and back.

“I didn’t know what it was because the house actually moved.

“We were wondering what it was.”

Hilltop Court Railway Trail Memorial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Ms McHardy added: “At the time I was like, what in the world? I thought it was actually an earthquake because the house moved, the roof moved and we’re the closest.”

She said her stepfather, Rodney Edness, who has since passed away, ran outside to see what happened and returned saying there was no roof on the neighbouring block.

Ms McHardy, who was with her nine-year-old child at the time, added: “I actually stayed in the house with my daughter, she was younger, so he and my mom went over to assess what was going on - she’s a former nurse at the hospital.”

Her stepfather said later he went in the apartment block to help one of the residents get out.

An explosion at an apartment block in Southampton on May 2, 2022 (File photograph)

Ms McHardy said: “It was traumatic, my daughter was upset.”

She added: “I was shaken.

“I guess it makes me realise that you can be here today and gone tomorrow, in a blink of an eye.

“It’s important to have your election sure with God at all times.”

Another neighbour was at home with his wife and son when the blast happened.

He recalled the loud noise and “slight vibrations”.

The neighbour said: “I went outside and I saw that there were a lot of people gathering around but the police started cordoning the area so we weren’t able to get close.”

He added that there was a lot of activity, including ambulance crews tending to the people who were injured.

Hilltop Court Railway Trail Memorial (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A memorial plaque was fixed at a nearby spot on the Railway Trail to recognise those who lost their lives or were directly affected by the explosion.

It said: “This trail improvement is installed in memory of the residents who suffered and the couple that died as a result of the Hilltop Court explosion at 8.50pm on the 2nd of May 2022, near this location.”

The plaque added that two sago palms represented “the loving memory of Oscar & Jove Mascarinas”.

It quoted an excerpt from 1 Thessalonians that said: “... our Lord Jesus Christ ... died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him”.

A man was expected to appear in court today in connection with the blast.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

An explosion at an apartment block in Southampton (Photograph by Akil Simmons)