A woman is dead and a man in hospital fighting for his life after an explosion in a unit in Forster on the NSW mid-north coast on September 14.
Police say that the man and woman were involved in an apartment fire around 21:30 after a gas leak was ignited.
Initial reports by emergency services indicate that the couple may have been lighting a gas stove at the time of the incident when the gas bottle exploded.
The 32-year-old woman suffered extensive burns and police say she died at the scene from her injuries.
Immediately after the accident, nearby residents say they heard the 45-year-old man running outside and screaming for help.
The male victim also suffered extensive burn injuries and was flown by the Westpac Rescue helicopter to the Royal North Shore Hospital, where he is currently in a critical but stable condition.
Police officers from the Manning Great Lakes Local Area Command have established a crime scene at the unit block.
Acting commander Peter McKenna said that initial investigations showed the explosion and subsequent fire were most likely an accident and did not suspect foul play.
McKenna told reporters: “It would appear that a flame has ignited the gas from the stove area and this has caused the explosion.
“The detectives and crime scene investigators have reviewed the scene and do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances.”
It is not yet clear who is responsible for the accident, with a number of local residents – who wished to remain anonymous – telling reporters that they believed the pair had been squatting in the apartment, which had previously been boarded up.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for Housing NSW said that the apartment block had previously been cleared of legitimate residents.
“All the windows of the vacant units on the ground floor had been boarded up and the doors screwed shut to deter squatters. The stairwells to the upstairs units had also been boarded to prevent access to those units,” said the spokesman.
It is uncertain if the man will be able to claim for compensation through a personal injury lawyer because the pair may not have been on the premises legally.
On top of this, a compensation lawyer would have to determine who supplied the gas bottle to the two alleged squatters, or if the cylinder belonged to them in the first place.