Wiped out at Christmas

Daily Record, 23/12/1999, p 1

by Shaun Milne & Grace McLean

LESS than two days ago, they were planning a Christmas to remember.
The house was full of presents and the Findlay family had finished
putting up the tree and their decorations.
But early yesterday, the respectable, hard-working family of four were wiped out, their house reduced to matchwood in a suspected gas explosion. Drew and Janette Findlay and their children, Daryl, 11, and Stacey, 13, never stood a chance.
Before they went to bed on Tuesday night, close friends called round at heir house in Carlisle Road, Larkhall, Lanarkshire, to share a drink and talk about their plans for Christmas Day.
But the blast, at 5.30am, has cast a pall over the whole tight-knit
community and no one in Larkhall was even thinking about Christmas yesterday.
The explosion vaporised the Findlays’ four-bedroom bungalow and left nothing but a pile of smouldering rubble. Debris was scattered for hundreds of yards.
The family’s possessions lay scattered around and their fridge ended up on a neighbour’s roof.
The force of the blast blew out the gable end of the house next door,
shattered windows in buildings 600 yards away and almost ripped off the roof from a factory across the road.
There were fears that if the roof came off, it could crash into a
neighbouring old people’s home and staff were put on alert in case they had to evacuate the elderly residents.
The terrific sound of the early morning explosion wakened people living nearby – simultaneously, rubble started flying through their windows.
The emergency services arrived to find neighbours running down the street in pouring rain in a state of complete shock. Miraculously, none of them was injured.
Police and firefighters on duty in Larkhall had heard the blast and
rushed to the scene. One senior policeman was wakened by the sound of the home in Hamilton – more than four miles away.
But all the emergency services could do was tend and try to comfort the 10 people wandering around dazed in their nightclothes until they found refuge in friends’ homes.
As day dawned, the full extent of the damage became clear. A pile of broken bricks and shattered timbers were all that remained of 42 Carlisle Road.
Police and fire crews erected green tarpaulins round the scene of
devastation and began the grim hunt for bodies.
They soon discovered the remains of Mrs Findlay, 37, and her children – but by late last night, they still hadn’t found Mr Findlay’s body and the search was called off. It will resume today.
The operation was hampered by fears of another explosion and the
outbreak of several small fires caused by pockets of gas at the blast
In mid-morning, a gas leak was discovered coming from a fractured pipe.
Everyone in the area – police, firefighters, ambulance crews and the
media – were shepherded away from the scene as an army of workers from gas company Transco moved in to cap the leak.
Director Robin Marshall said they working with police and the Health and Safety Executive to establish the cause of the explosion.
He refused to speculate and said: “As soon as we are in a position to
say what the cause is we will share that information, but at the moment we cannot.”
Asked about reports that Transco had been working on a recent gas leak in the area, Mr Marshall said he had no knowledge of that.
All around Larkhall, people were stunned by the tragedy – especially the Findlays’ many friends in the village.
Mr Findlay, 36, a devoted husband and father, was a joiner to trade and ran his own business from an industrial estate just 10 minutes from his home.
Wife Janette was a housewife who doted on their two children.
A few hours before the blast, they had been celebrating son Daryl’s
success in winning a dancing prize at Craigbank Primary School’s
Christmas disco.
Last night, the family had planned to be in their local church for a
Christmas carol service in which Stacey was to star. Like her mum, she had a great singing talent, and was to entertain schoolfriends,
neighbours and relatives.
Instead, the concert was called off as a mark of respect as the same
relatives and friends tried to come to terms with what had happened.
William Marley, 39, and his wife Susan 36, had known the Findlays for more than a decade.
The families were the best of friends and the Marleys went round to No 42 on Tuesday night to trade jokes and chat about Christmas – the Findlays revealed that Stacey was getting jewellery and Daryl the radio-controlled car he had always wanted.
Mr Marley, of North Street, Larkhall, choked back tears as he said: “I cannot believe what has happened. This family were part of our own family. Our two children, Liam and Gordon, treated Stacey and Daryl as cousins and would spend most weekends together.
“This is tearing us all apart. We go on holidays together and would see each other most nights discussing next year’s break. We just cannot believe they are gone.
“They had everything to live for. They were full of life and always a
lot of fun. We do not know how we will cope with Christmas because we will miss them so much.
“Our children are absolutely devastated. They have lost their best
friends as well.”
Mrs Marley, her eyes red from crying, said: “I would see Janette every day and we would just constantly be laughing.
She added: “They lived for their children. Everything they did was for their two beautiful children.
“Stacey was a really good little girl – always smiling and having fun.
And Daryl doted on his parents as they did on them.
“All we can think at the moment is that we have lost people we loved.”
Before Mr Findlay set up his own business, he worked for years at Scott Builders in Larkhall. Last night, company owner Colin Scott said he was shattered by the news.
He said: “I just could not believe it – the entire family completely
wiped out.
“Drew and I were pals from school and I thought the world of him, his wife and his kids. They were a smashing family.
“Drew worked as hard as anyone could to make sure his family were provided for. He lived for his wife and kids and devoted his whole life to them.
“He was never a drinker and didn’t go out much and when he did go out Janette and the kids were always there. He was the nicest, most decent guy I’ve ever met and I just cannot imagine what their families are going through right now.”
Local minister the Rev Jim Hastie, who visited Daryl’s P7 classmates at Craigbank, said the tragedy had devastated the whole community.
Mr Hastie, of Chalmers Parish Church, said: “This is a terrible tragedy to have happened and it’s a tragedy for the whole community.
“We are a close knit community and we will have to draw strength from one another.
“The children said they were going to make some kind of memorial to the family and they are remembering the best things about how Daryl used to make them laugh.
“People will need to keep close to each other and give each other
strength. That’s all we can do.”

Categories: by Shaun Milne, Daily Record articles

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