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Hotel shelter for victims of Ilminster gas leak scare

By Western Gazette - Yeovil  |  Posted: September 07, 2012

Stuart Shepherd

SAFE HAVEN: Stuart Shepherd, managing director of the Best Western Shrubbery Hotel in Ilminster, who let local residents take shelter for a couple of hours when they were evacuated from their homes after a gas leak

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A gas leak crisis was averted in Ilminster when a hotel stepped in to help around 200 local evacuees.

Residents had to leave their homes on Friday, August 31, after a car crashed into a gas main at 10.30pm.

The incident caused a gas leak near to the Texaco garage on Station Road and people living nearby had to evacuate.

But panic was avoided when the Best Western Shrubbery Hotel took them in, providing shelter and drinks until they were allowed to return home.

Wales and West Utilities and the emergency services attended the incident, giving the all-clear at around 1am.

Christine Sainsbury, 61, and her husband Jim, 64, were two of the evacuated residents.

Mrs Sainsbury said: “I was indoors and I could hear a noise that sounded like a car engine.

“We thought someone had broken down but then we saw blue lights and the fire engines.

“We joked that we might have to be evacuated and then we were told actually we were going to have to leave.

“Everyone was quite calm, but I did feel sorry for those who had to get their young children out of bed.

“My next door neighbour had been asleep and I think it was quite a nasty shock getting woken up with firemen banging on the door.

“But for a lot of us it was actually one of the most exciting things that’s happened around here.”

Mrs Sainsbury said it had been well handled, with the emergency services providing mini-buses to take people to the Shubbery Hotel.

Stuart Shepherd, the hotel’s managing director, said: “We were right on the fringe of it all so we opened up and let everyone in for a cup of tea or coffee.

“We just kept them comfortable and tried to do our best to help the situation. We were making arrangements for people to stay but no one needed to in the end. We wouldn’t have had enough space for everyone.

“The hotel is actually listed as somewhere to go in an emergency.

“You’ve got to do it really, we were happy to help.”

Mrs Sainsbury added: “It was very good of the hotel to take us all in. I know that Stuart had actually been in bed and came down to see to us, so that was very good of him.”

A spokesman from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said the driver of the Renault Clio that hit the gas pipe did not suffer serious injuries and was not trapped.

South Western Ambulance Service confirmed it did not treat anyone and attended simply as a precaution.

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