Crane collapse: Woman dies in Bow tragedy as neighbours go to the rescue
PUBLISHED: 23:27 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 19:40 09 July 2020
A woman has died after a 60ft crane crashed on terraced houses in Bromley-by-Bow despite being rescued by neighbours before emergency services arrived.
The crane erected only the day before collapsed on a site where a new block of flats was being built off Watts Grove.
It smashed into the roof of two adjoining terraced houses in Compton Close at 2.40pm today.
Ambulance paramedics treated four people, but confirmed the woman’s death.
She was upstairs in one of the houses that was hit by the crane and was brought down a ladder by two neighbours.
Onlooker Sahana Begum heard the crash and saw an elderly woman at her bedroom window shaking badly.
“The woman was panicking,” she said. “Her son was calling from the ground to try and get her down.”
The two neighbours with the ladder helped her down. She was barefoot and someone gave her a pair of sandals.
Police and the emergency services turned up at that point and set up a cordon and moved onlookers back.
Emergency services confirmed one woman died at the scene and four people were treated by ambulance paramedics. Two were taken to hospital.
The family of five living next door to the house that took the full impact had a narrow escape.
One of the daughters of the couple living in the house said: “I came out of the bathroom and a second later the attic door could have fallen on me and knocked me out.
“If my brother or sister had been in their rooms which is where the crane hit, they would have been crushed. Anyone inside the rooms would have been crushed. We are all just so lucky to be alive.”
She was speaking at the policed cordon after the family reached safety.
“My dad was telling everyone to move as there was a crane coming down,” she recalled.
“My mum was shouting for me because she thought it had hit me. She was screaming. I was screaming back.
“I am not sure how I managed to run downstairs because there was stuff everywhere.”
The Mayor of London called it a tragedy and gave “heartfelt condolences” to the family of the woman who died in Bow today.
The fire brigade had used specialist equipment to search the properties for survivors.
The brigade’s assistant commissioner Graham Ellis said: “Our search and rescue crews undertook a complex operation. Sadly one woman died at the scene.”
Neighbours had earlier described how two people were rescued from one of the houses while the toppled crane balanced precariously above them on the wrecked rooftop.
A builder who lives close-by ran out of his house with a ladder and made his way with another neighbour through clouds of thick dust into Compton Close and leaned it up against one of the houses.
Onlooker Sid Rahman told the East London Advertiser: “They had to persuade her to get onto the ladder in case there was a further collapse. She was very scared.
“I knew something big had happened when the ground shook and ran out into clouds of dust. Everything was twisted.”
Eye-witness Dave Aylwood was one of 14 neighbours who dialed 999. He told the Advertiser: “We heard a huge crumpled bang that shook the whole street. The gantry crane on the building site opposite is on its side.
“There’s a huge hole in the house where the crane went through.”
Crews arrived from Poplar, Whitechapel and Stratford fire stations, with the Fire Brigade also using a drone overhead for aerial imagery to help the rescue operation.
Streets around Watts Grove leading to Compton Close were cordoned off with police advising drivers to avoid the area.
Work on the Watts Grove site began in 2018 on a housing scheme to replace a disused electrical substation.
The Marney Construction company’s chief executive Neil Marney was on another site, but had seen the crane being erected on Tuesday, just 24 hours before.
He told the Press Association: “My project manager called me immediately and said the crane I was looking at yesterday has just collapsed.”
The crane belonged to another company and was still being erected when it collapsed.
The Unite trade union tonight called for “an urgent and complete investigation into the circumstances” that led to the tragedy.
Its national officer Jerry Swain said: “The preliminary findings must be released in weeks, not months or years, to ensure that similar accidents are avoided in future.”
Families evacuated from Compton Close and neighbouring properties were being put up overnight by Tower Hamlets Council at a rest centre in a school, but it was not known when they could return as the area has to be made safe.
Mayor John Biggs warned it “may be a few days yet” before families can be back in their homes.
He said the incident will “worry people” and added: “We have more construction in this part of London than just about anywhere in the country and it’s important that we learn any lessons and see where there any errors.”
The crane was being used for a Swan Housing Association development whose staff were on site to provide support to the emergency response and the investigation.
Structural engineering assessments now need to be carried out to check whether the houses in Compton Close are safe.
The nearby All Hallows parish church in Devons Road set up a tea stall soon after the tragedy to feed the emergency services who are still at the scene tonight.
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