After a massive explosion destroyed his house and left his partner with potentially life-changing injuries, Martin Viney was left with nothing more than the clothes on his back.
But the 70-year-old knows things could easily have been even worse.
The suspected gas blast that devastated his Charles Street home in Blackpool also wrote off his car, meaning he has struggled to see his partner of 20 years Pauline Citterio in hospital.
The 72-year-old was placed in a medically induced coma after being trapped in the rubble and remains critically ill in Royal Preston Hospital.
“They say she won’t be able to walk again,” Martin told The Gazette.Speaking publicly for the first time the explosion on Saturday, September 23, he
described the moment the huge fireball tore through the three storey home he and Pauline have occupied since moving from Bognor Regis, Sussex, in the late 1990s.“I remember her going into the kitchen and I went in the front room,” he said.
“Within a couple of minutes there was a bang. I could not hear any explosion but I remember all the stuff falling down on me, like the ceiling.
“I was stunned. I knew where Pauline was but I didn’t know she was under rubble. I was shouting for her but couldn’t make myself heard.”
He has had no belongings since the blast last month and is currently living in a flat on Edgerton Road with close friend and lodger Nigel Thomas.
Nigel, 64, was in the Kaos bar in Queen Street and rushed back after hearing the news, and hasn’t been allowed inside his condemned home since.
He said: “Just imagine what you are standing in and you have nothing else. That’s what we had.
“We are relying on friends but they have lives and businesses to run.”
Martin added: “Everything has gone. They won’t let us in to get anything. I have had to manage with neighbours, and friends and family.”
The 70-year-old had not spent a night apart from Pauline in 20 years before the blast but has since struggled to see her in hospital.
He faces a 35-mile round trip to Preston and was left without a car after his black Ford Ka was written off in the explosion.
However, in recent days his insurance firm has said he will be provided with a hire car.Martin said: “I saw her quite a bit at the beginning but the transport has become too much.
“We just have to phone up now. I’m fed up with not seeing her.”
Martin was helped out of his home – which was insured and now faces demolition – by two passers-by, including tattoo artist Jason Slater. Pauline was freed by firefighters after being dug out of the wreckage by hand in around 90 minutes and airlifted from the beach to Preston.
Tony Wheeler, 28, was rescued from a flat next door after being pinned to the floor by a ceiling joist and also taken to hospital. He was later released after escaping with minor injuries.
Having being donated furniture, clothes, and other essentials by pals, Martin and Nigel hope to eventually get in to retrieve sentimental items, like photographs and dolls given to Pauline by Martin when they first moved to the resort.
But Pauline – and the family’s pets – remain the top priority.The pensioner’s pelvis was shattered and her legs broken, while she was also badly burned.
“She is beetroot red everywhere,” Martin said.
“She got all the blast, I didn’t.
“I was very lucky, I know that much.”