A 99-year-old woman was rescued by a hero father and son as a suspected gas explosion completely destroyed her home as she sat inside it.
Ethel Hanford and her son Donald, 75, were saved by Andy and Harry Hodges, who raced into the burning row of houses.
They saved Ethel and Donald before racing next door to rescue 22-year-old Shannon Pankhurst.
The pair, who work in construction, were driving past the house in Willesborough in Ashford, Kent, just after 8am when they witnessed the aftermath of the blast, which saw two people airlifted to hospital and a further five hurt.
They sprinted through a hole where the front of Mrs Hanford’s house had been, before Andy, 53, grabbed Mrs Hanford – who was sitting in her dining room dazed from a nasty cut to her head – and lifted her over his shoulders.
He negotiating the rubble on the floor and passed her to his son Harry, 22,
who helped her over to a nearby patch of grass.
The Hodges had already escorted Donald to safety and so dashed next door after hearing shouts for help.
As they placed Ethel on the grass outside the home they heard screams from the house next door.
They kicked the door down and found Shannon – an old school friend of Harry’s – at the top of the stairs trying to reach her parents who were trapped in their bedroom.
Harry said: “We were driving past and saw that a couple of houses had been destroyed, the roof on one of the properties had virtually caved in and there was a huge hole where the front door should have been.
The moment Kent home explodes caught on camera
“Instinct then took over and everything happened in a bit of blur.
“We ran into the wreckage of the house and there was a man in his 70s wandering around what was left of the hallway.
“He was shocked and confused but didn’t appear to be too badly hurt. He said his mother was in the dining area.
“We went in and found an elderly lady sitting down.
“Part of her hair had been singed and she had quite a nasty cut on her head and force of the blast had blown bits of carpet up onto her face.
“She kept asking us not to lift her up but we said we had to as we couldn’t keep her where she was because there was a fire. The smell of gas was very strong.
“I helped the man outside while my dad carefully hoisted the elderly lady over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and took her to the front of the house. I then took her and guided her to a patch of grass where her son was.
“There was some shouting coming from next door so myself and dad kicked down the door and went in.
“There was a girl at the top of the stairs, she was shouting down that her parents were trapped.
“She just kept on shouting ‘my mum and dad are trapped in there’.
“Part of the wall between their house and next door had collapsed and the fire was growing in intensity.
“It became too much for us to do anything so we grabbed the girl, who I later found out was an old school mate, and got her outside to safety.
“Fortunately as we came out, the firefighters were preparing to go in and we told them that there was a couple still trapped in an upstairs bedroom.
They rescued the couple minutes later and brought them down, which was a huge relief.”
Harry, from Ashford, added: “I don’t know if we are heroes, we just did what needed to be done.
“But the fire really took hold soon after we came out of the second house.
“Had we not been there a few minutes earlier, who knows what could have happened. I’m just glad we were driving past at the time.”
Andy later realised that Donald drinks in the same local as him and that Ethel is his friend’s wife’s nan.
“I spoke to my friend not long ago and he said Ethel is actually doing ok and they’re thinking of letting her out, but apparently Donald is struggling,” he said last night as he enjoyed a well-earned beer with his boy.
“I really hope they’re ok – I’d like to take Ethel some flowers.
“We just did what anyone would do.
“If we had been minutes later we all would have been dead.”
The cause of the fire was still being investigated last night.