UK & World News
Boy's Family Pays Tribute After Blast Death
The family of a two-year-old who died in an explosion in Oldham, have described him as "a happy, loving little boy... full of laughter".
Jamie Heaton died after what was believed to be a gas blast ripped through three houses and reduced them to rubble on Tuesday morning.
Police have begun a "homicide investigation" and have said they have "significant questions" for the boy's neighbour, Andrew Partington, who was seriously injured.
National Grid has completed its investigation into the explosion and confirmed it was not caused by a leak from one of its gas pipes.
The toddler's family said he was killed as he watched TV in the front room of the family's terraced house in Shaw.
In a statement they said: "Jamie was a happy loving little boy - precious son to Michelle and Kenny and loving little brother to Jodie and Jack.
"Jamie's life was full of laughter. He loved going to preschool, playing with sand and water and going to the park. He touched the hearts of all who knew him and will be missed by all."
His mother survived the carnage after she momentarily stepped into the yard to hang out washing to dry. Her husband and two other children were not at home and were spared serious injury.
The Reverend Lynne Connolly, vicar of St James Church, close to the scene, said the church would be open for prayers and a book of condolence available to sign from Thursday.
Mr Partington, 27, who is not related to the child, was taken to hospital with severe burns after the explosion, where police said he was "unconscious and sedated".
Assistant chief constable Steve Heywood, from Greater Manchester Police, said: "We've had information to suggest that it might not have been accidental, so we are treating it as a suspicious death and, therefore, a homicide investigation is being undertaken."
He said reports of a domestic argument on Monday night were being investigated.
Police say Mr Partington was alone in the house where the explosion happened.
Asst ch con Heywood said: "Obviously we want to speak to Mr Partington when he wakes up and he's currently got some colleagues with him from police."
Police confirmed another adult and five children live in the house with Mr Partington but were "in another town" when the explosion happened.
Councillor Jean Stratton said initially 100 homes were evacuated, but that some residents had been allowed home.
Most of those who have been forced out of their houses are staying with relatives or friends but some are being helped by the council to find temporary accommodation. No arrests have been made.
Scores of firefighters, police and paramedics were scrambled to Buckley Street at around 11.15am on Tuesday following the booming explosion which rocked the immediate area and sparked an evacuation of local residents.
Witnesses said the blast left the area looking like a war zone, with emergency workers rushing to the scene and scouring the damaged properties for survivors.
The most badly hit houses were numbers 9 and 11, with search teams discovering the dead body of the child inside one of them.
According to locals, Mr Partington, who was a qualified joiner but had recently been made redundant, lived at a rented property with his partner.
Waqar Hussain, whose family rent out one of the destroyed properties, lives a few doors away.
He said: "I had walked past just a few minutes earlier and gone into my house.
"The explosion was massive. I thought a bomb had gone off. The whole house shook. My mother was crying and when I went out onto the street I couldn't take it in.
"It was like some weird dream. I just stood looking at the rubble and mess not knowing what to do when the police arrived and moved me away."
Adam Pollard, 21, was at his mother's house just 500 yards away when he heard the explosion.
"It was the biggest bang I have ever heard, all the windows shook, I could see the smoke and came running up towards my flat," he said.
"I got to the street and the three houses that had been there were just rubble, basically.
"I was worried if someone was trapped. I went running on to the rubble, shouting to see if anyone was injured. I couldn't see anyone and there was no fire, just smoke in the air.
"There was a weird smell, not of gas, like a burning smell."
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what do you think?
RIP Jamie Heaton and get well soon Anthony Partington
It is high time that all gas connected properties were better protected. We need some kind of detector installed by law. There has been a leaking around my home and the pipe managers siad that really the whole road needs pipe interiors renewing and home connections fully checking but all they did was a couple of homes! Natural gas is more explosive than the old town gas and needs secure management. If a noisy alarm had gone off in this case - people would have been warned.
RIP Jamie Heaton and get well soon Anthony Partington...................................................................... AND FOR ALL PEOPLE THAT LEAVE COMMENTS. LET THE POLICE DO THERE INVESTIGATION BEFORE POINTING THE FINGER.
Well done, Supt Evans! "Distraught" says it all. The widely used "devastated" is totally inappropriate but the Media are hooked on it. I too have a gas boiler but it's regularly checked out by qualified engineers I'm pleased to say. Wouldn't have it otherwise.
Rest in peace jamie... So tragic what happened my heart goes out to your mummy and family.. God bless you.. You are in heaven playing with the angels xxxx
R.i.p. Sweet baby feel so sorry for the parents xx
RIP little Jamie. Heartfelt condolences to your family. xxx
Terrible tragedy etc and with no disrespects intended to this little lad, but why do the media always state the most obvious and useless story about a deceased. I'm sure he was happy and loving etc, but then isn't every child. Tell us something worthwhile that we didn't know or could'nt have surmised.
Old news get a grip