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‘No words can describe the sound’

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A Devonshire couple count themselves lucky to be alive, after a gas explosion blew their home up around them.

“There are no words that can describe the sound, the sheer impact of it,” said Lou Maroun, whose wife Kathryn was with him in the Ariel Sands apartment when it blew.

So severe is the damage that the couple's villa may have to be demolished entirely.

But perhaps the most graphic evidence of why the Marouns count themselves lucky is the barrage of broken concrete in their upstairs swimming pool, where they could easily have been sitting.

Also fortunate is a cleaner who had been standing by the pool — but abruptly returned to a neighbouring house to collect a tool he'd left behind.

Minutes later, at 6.20pm on Wednesday, the Marouns' villa exploded.

“He would have been standing right in front of the glass,” Mr Maroun told The Royal Gazette.

He added: “We could have been in the pool. If you look there now, there's about 16 tons of concrete in there.”

The adjacent dining room is “nonexistent”, he said — its three walls and roof blown apart.

The hail of debris strewn across the South Shore complex was yesterday being shovelled up by workmen, while the drive at 2 Dill Lane remained buried under shattered rubble.

Agents from Freisenbruch-Meyer insurance came to examine the damage, and the Bermuda Fire Service investigation continues.

Mr Maroun had a few details to share.

“It wasn't a gas canister — there's a 250lb propane tank outside that hasn't been touched. All they've said so far is that somehow gas got caught in various areas of the house,” he said.

“Something ignited it, which triggered the explosion.”

The Canadian couple, who have lived in Bermuda for nearly six years, avoided the worst of the blast through an “absolutely bizarre” coincidence, he said.

Discovering on Monday that their pool heater wouldn't work, the couple had it checked out the next day and found it was operational.

Expecting company on Wednesday night, they tidied the house and went to heat the pool for the evening — but, again, couldn't get the heater to work.

That fault, which occurred about an hour before the explosion, may have spared the Marouns from getting into the water and being directly hit by rubble.

“We went to the back patio, then came in just after 6pm when it cooled down to grab a bit of dinner and relax,” Mr Maroun recalled.

Ms Maroun was in the kitchen while her husband sat on a living room couch, when the hidden pocket of gas exploded.

“She said, ‘The soup's all set', and it happened,” Mr Maroun said.

“It was as if somebody above my head was trying to push me into the floor. I think the couch was in the dead centre of it — it came down on top of me.”

He added: “The sound was the scariest thing I've ever experienced. I saw my wife go flying through the air. She got the brunt of the concussion.”

The blast hurled fragments of the roof and wall high into the air. Safety glass from their windows was ejected far down the road, and windows in neighbouring residences shattered.

Mr Maroun said: “She got up and panicked — neither one of us knew it was lightning, or a bomb. The house exploded around us. Everything was blown away. She just said, ‘If we're still alive, we have to get out of here'.

“We ran for the door, and the knob was blown off, so we couldn't get out. Then, of course, we realised the whole front of the house was missing anyway. We ran out the front.

“This is a neighbourhood where everybody travels. We don't know each other. Neighbours we'd never met came over and tried to calm us down. My wife was telling them they were going the wrong way — that the whole thing was going to blow up.”

In shock and suffering from back pain, Ms Maroun was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

“The bizarre thing was that neither of us had been cut. We didn't have a scratch on us,” Mr Maroun said. “The first thing she said to me was, ‘I'm so glad we're alive — if we're alive, can you go and check on the neighbours?'”

He expressed regret for neighbours who came to support them, but whose houses were damaged by the blast — some badly.

“You get a sense of how people are in this world,” Mr Maroun said, giving special thanks to cabbies Alaine and Wayne Mouchette who have looked after the Marouns in the aftermath.

“I can't tell you how many people e-mailed us with offers of places to say,” he said. “To me, it's a story of tragedy and miraculous survival — it doesn't seem possible to survive something that threw a 500lb concrete block 100ft, and we haven't got a cut.”

His wife, he added, will be sore for days after being thrown across the house by the blast. In the aftermath, the couple went to stay in the Fairmont Southampton Hotel.

“We will, I suspect, rent something for the next couple of years,” Mr Maroun said.

“It's unfortunate, but the early estimates are that the place isn't structurally sound enough to rebuild. It's quite likely the walls will have to come down. Our objective right now is to sit quietly for the next couple of weeks.”

Blast damage: A huge explosion left a Devonshire home covered in shattered glass and debris (Photos by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: Tons of concrete lie in a swimming pool after being dumped there by a huge explosion at a Devonshire home (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Wrecked: The aftermath of the Ariel Sands explosion (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 18, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 18, 2013 at 12:56 am)

‘No words can describe the sound’

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