A CARETAKER remains in a critical condition in hospital and may require re-constructive surgery after suffering severe burns in an explosion and fire at a school.

John Hampden Grammar School headteacher Stephen Nokes said everyone at the Handy Cross-based school was praying for 26-year-old caretaker Greg Fountain.

He was airlifted to hospital with severe burns to his head and upper body following the gas explosion at his home on the school premises at 2.05pm yesterday.

The blast, which was heard by residents in High Wycombe town centre and Downley, forced the closure of Marlow Hill while firefighters tackled the blaze.

No-one else was injured in the explosion and the school opened as usual today.

Mr Nokes said he was “very concerned” about the popular caretaker, who joined the school about four years ago. He may require re-constructive surgery for his injuries.

Mr Nokes said today: “Mr Fountain is still in hospital in a serious, critical condition and the next two-to-three days will be crucial as he may need re-constructive surgery.

“We are very concerned and sending our best wishes to him and his family - his father flew into the country yesterday to be with him.

“He is keen, gets on with his job and is well known and well liked around the school. We are all praying for him.”

Mr Nokes said a full investigation into the explosion has been launched by the Health and Safety Executive and Buckinghamshire County Council.

Assemblies for each year group were held this morning so teachers could discuss and support students through the terrifying experience.

Mr Nokes praised the school's community spirit and hailed the "shocked" pupils and staff members for the way they handled the ordeal.

He said: “They conducted themselves totally professionally throughout the emergency and I am very proud of the exemplary way the situation was handled.

“Their actions ensured that no-one else was harmed or put at risk at any stage, and staff and senior students showed the leadership qualities we have come to expect and, perhaps, sometimes take for granted.

“The school is operating well today, although we are very aware that each person had a different experience yesterday and we are addressing this as a whole school.

“We have held Assemblies for all year groups to discuss the situation. We have a very strong community and we are all supporting each other.

“I would just like to reiterate that our over-riding concern is for Mr Fountain and his family.”