A TULLIBODY plumber who botched the installation of a boiler and blew a pensioner-couple's bungalow to bits was spared jail time last week.

On March 28, 2013, a huge gas explosion tore through the Callander home, "totally demolishing" it and trapping the residents beneath the rubble.

In December a court heard how Craig Hall left a gas pipe liable to come loose in by failing to solder a vital "ring" where it attached to the new equipment.

For eight months the dodgy fitting was held together by just a little paste used to prepare the joint for connection.

But eventually it separated, pouring gas at up to nine cubic metres an hour into the couple's utility room until it ignited early in the morning.

The couple were later pulled from the wreckage by firefighters.

One resident, then 77, was taken by air ambulance to Glasgow Royal Infirmary with burns to his head, face, and both hands, and spent a full week in hospital.

His wife, then 74, had less serious injuries, but has been left "frail and very anxious".

At Stirling Sheriff Court last Wednesday, Hall, 35, was told he had committed "an act that a person exercising reasonable care would not have committed".

However, Sheriff William Gilchrist continued: "I accept it was not an intentional offence or involving wilful blindness

"There were 20 solder rings that you had to adequately seal, and you did it with 19. You missed one.

"The consequences were severe because the solder ring that was missed was the gas pipe...and the bungalow blew up.

"Thankfully the residents were not killed, but they could have been, and the consequences for them have been very serious."

Sheriff Gilchrist said there had been "an extraordinary gap" between the incident and the case coming to court.

He said: "The passage of time is something I take into account in determining the appropriate sentence."

He said he also took into account that, according to testimonials placed before the court, Hall had "a good health and safety record" and no relevant previous convictions.

Fining Hall £3000, he said: "For all of those reasons I am satisfied that the case can be dealt with appropriately by way of a financial penalty."

Hall was found guilty in December of causing the blast and destroying the couple's home.

He insisted that he had applied heat with his blow-lamp to solder the so-called "Yorkshire fitting" between the inlet pipe and the boiler, but accepted that the solder had not "run" and the joint had not been properly made.

The engineer is still working for the company who employed him at the time of the blast, Stirling-based TRS Plumbing and Heating Services, and was promoted two years ago to plumbing manager at the firm.

His advocate, Susan Duff, said his employer had "no intention" of sacking him.

She said: "He will require to undergo further certification, but as I understand it that will be in the normal course of things."

The couple's daughter said her parents, now aged 79 and 81, had been "utterly overwhelmed" by finding, in their 70s, "everything that's familiar suddenly disappears".

She told the court: "They actually didn't have the ability to put their lives back together again – it was too much."