September 5 2014

– A MAN killed in a Sydney explosion and fire should have been safe in his own bed, his grieving family said, as two more bodies were found in the wrecked building.

Chris Noble, 27, was one of three people killed when a blast and fire destroyed a convenience store and adjoining units in Rozelle early yesterday.

Emergency workers today found two more bodies, believed to be those of Bianka O’Brien, 31, and her 12-month-old son Jude, who were in a neighbouring unit at the rear of the store.

Police say the explosion and fire, which flattened the building, is being treated as suspicious.

Mr Noble’s mother Liz Noble said “We lost our beautiful boy yesterday. He should have been safe sleeping in his own bed.

“We are gutted. We will remember Chris for his athletic ability, his work ethic, his watch collection and his … love for his family and friends.”

Mr Noble, a gifted athlete from the country NSW town of Canowindra who played both Rugby union and rugby league to a high standard, moved to Sydney several years ago and was living in the apartment in Darling Street when it was explosion occurred around 4am yesterday.

His body was found late last night.

Mr Noble had recently returned from a trip to South America and was planning to move to the UK with a close friend shortly after Christmas.

The middle child of three, he was described by one friend as “really outgoing. “I’ve never met someone who so many people considered their best friend.”

Two more bodies, believed to be those of Ms O’Brien and her son Jude, were found amid the ruins of the building earlier today. Their identities have not yet been formally confirmed.

John O’Brien, the husband and father, had reportedly left for work at a hospital just an hour before yesterday’s explosion.

Two men leapt from the first floor of the burning building after the 4am explosion, which shattered windows in nearby buildings. Another man was dug out by hand by emergency services after being buried under a refrigerator.

Police said the owner of the shop was in hospital in a serious condition and had yet to be interviewed.

Police are reviewing CCTV footage of the blaze. Investigators are looking into reports of a car fleeing the area after the explosion.

NSW Police have formed a strike force to investigate the explosion, led by detectives from the Property Crime Squad’s dedicated arson unit.

“We are treating the fire as suspicious, however, given the investigation is still in its infancy, I cannot go into detail on our lines of inquiry,” Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman said.

“Three people have lost their lives in this event, and our thoughts are with their families and friends who are grief-stricken,” Mr Chapman said.

Nearby store owner Wendy Doughty said the community was in shock.

“I am feeling quite emotional about it. I have been part of this community for 25 years,” she said.

“I have never known such an awful eerie feeling in the district.

“I am feeling a little bit scared and fragile.”

Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne said: “I think it’s going to leave a hole in the heart of our community for some time to come.

– Dan Box


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