A man has told of his ‘miracle’ escape after a 65ft crane collapsed on to his house in east London, killing his 85-year-old great aunt.
Sam Atkinson, 28, and his mother Jacqueline Atkinson, 63, survived but June Harvey died during the tragic incident in Bow at 2pm yesterday.
Specialist firefighters are today working to recover her body from the first floor of the house after it was crushed by the huge rig.
A construction worker is also in a critical condition in hospital and almost 100 people have been evacuated from their homes.
The crane, which had been working on a new block of flats, smashed through the roofs of two terraced homes in Compton Close.
The body of the machine was mangled over the top of the unfinished apartments, while the end of the structure lay across back gardens.
Swan Housing Association, which was using the crane, said this morning it would work with Health and Safety Executive in its investigation.
Sam Atkinson, 28, (left) and his mother Jacqueline Atkinson (right), 63, survived but June Harvey died during the tragic incident in Bow at 2pm yesterday.
A woman has died after a 65-foot-high crane collapsed in east London yesterday afternoon, injuring at least four others. Pictures from the scene at a building site on Gale Street in Bow show gaping holes in the roof of houses and through a nearby fence. Several cars were also covered in dust and debris after the crane fell at around 2pm.
Two firefighters look down through the collapsed roof of a terraced house after the 65ft high crane collapsed on Wednesday afternoon. It is believed that one person remains unaccounted for and the London Fire Brigade had launched a rescue operation.
The crane appears to have crashed through the roof of the home before falling down to the ground after it collapsed over the top of an incomplete structure surrounded by scaffolding
Firefighters scale ladders up to the home after the crane decimated its roof on Wednesday afternoon – one of the men appears to be wielding a large hammer
Basil Long, a 39-year-old housing lawyer, lives opposite the construction site where the crane came down. He said: ‘The crane fell 30 metres away. It fortunately fell the other way on a construction site. It was a real shock, I saw it fall. I had actually been in the bedroom at the time. There was a lot of shouting going on. I literally saw it topple over.’
The mangled crane can be seen bending over the roof of an unfinished building surrounded by scaffolding at the building site in east London
Part of the crane struck the building site and bent scaffolding poles out of place when it came down at around 2pm
Firefighters peer through a window of the terraced house on Wednesday afternoon which left at least four injured and another dead
A 65-foot-high crane has collapsed in east London , destroying two houses and killing one person and leaving four others injured
Mr Atkinson, who lived with Ms Harvey, along with his mother Jacqueline and their dog, said he was on the sofa downstairs while his mother and Ms Harvey were upstairs when the crane fell.
He said: ‘The noise was indescribable. It was just so loud. I thought it was a plane crash or the bath had fallen through.
‘As I looked around, the whole house was destroyed and crumbling around me. I was screaming for my mum to check she was OK and my great aunt.
‘As I tried to get up the whole stairs were completely blocked off with rubble. I tried to push through it, but it was just impossible.’
Mr Atkinson said he ran out of the house, before rescuing his mother.
He said: ‘The neighbours called me to the front, where she was at the front window. I grabbed a ladder and a neighbour grabbed another ladder to get her down. It’s just a miracle that we’re alive.
‘It was lucky it didn’t come straight through and crush me, crush my mum. She was about a metre away from where my aunt was. They were sorting out clothes in one of the bedrooms. They were really close.
‘We were extremely lucky to get out alive and be here now. It’s a true miracle we are but it’s devastating my aunt had to go in such tragic circumstances.’
Mr Atkinson paid tribute to Ms Harvey as a ‘very caring woman, who was ‘loyal to her family’. Ms Harvey, who was born in Poplar and never married, was a machinist all her life and after retirement would spend her afternoons watching game shows such as The Chase.
He said: ‘She looked after all of us and in the last few years she was living with us in her later life. She was like a second nan to us.’
He added: ‘We are devastated by our loss. We are extremely traumatised, extremely shocked. The last thing you ever think is going to happen is a crane coming through your roof. It’s extremely traumatising.’
Charlene Atkinson, Mr Atkinson’s cousin, wrote of the family’s despair online as she set up a GoFunMe page to help pay for costs.
She said: ‘I’m raising money to help pay with costs after the death of my cousin’s auntie, who sadly died in the Bow crane disaster.
‘My cousin and his mum were also in the house. But thankfully came out with just cuts and bruises. They have lost everything in the house, I would love to be able to help and show them the support they deserve.
‘All money received will go straight to my cousin, for the funeral and to help them get by. Thank you for all your support during this difficult time.’
Tributes flooded in under his posts, with Jade Lote writing: ‘June was such a lovely lady. My mum worked with her years ago. RIP June xxx.’
Family friend Linda Martin added: ‘Sam I can’t believe this has happened. I am lost for words. The trauma you and mum have gone through is unbelievable and to think poor June lost her life in this awful way! Thinking of you all.’
Firefighters are working to recover Ms Harvey’s body safely, while the Metropolitan Police said an investigation is in its early stages and there have been no arrests.
Tower Hamlets council said 97 residents from 26 households have been temporarily rehoused in hotel accommodation.
London Ambulance Service have confirmed that one person was found and died at the scene. Four others were injured, two were rushed to hospital with head injuries and the others were treated at the scene
The body of the crane is mangled over the roof of an unfinished block of flats, while the end of the structure lies across residents’ back gardens after striking through the roof of terraced houses
Firefighters look through the open roof from the top of a cherry picker at the site of the disaster in east London yesterday afternoon
Rescue personnel work at the area where a crane collapsed in Bow, east London
Emergency services at the scene yesterday. One woman died in the collapse and another four were injured – two of them rushed to hospital with head injuries
Rescue personnel work at the area where a crane collapsed in Bow, east London, Britain, July 8, 2020
A firefighter looks down through the collapsed roof of a terraced house, after a crane collapsed onto it on July 8, 2020 in Bow, England
Firefighters at the scene where the crane collapsed on onto a terraced house in East London
The cab of the collapsed crane dangles in the air after the structure collapsed on Wednesday afternoon
The tremendous weight of the crane bent scaffolding on the unfinished block of flats which it fell onto the houses on Wednesday afternoon
One witness said she saw a ‘shivering and shaking’ woman being led to safety after she was rescued from the second floor by firemen who had scaled up ladders to the window.
Sahana Begum, who lives a few streets away, rushed outside when she hard the crash. She said: ‘I saw someone yelling that a crane had fallen but then I could also hear someone saying ”help, help, help”.’
At this point a few of the local people from the community tried to help the woman get down – including two men with ladders.
Ms Begum said: ‘As she was coming down the ladder you could see that she was shivering. She was shivering so much that she could have fallen over because she looked like she was going to miss her step.’
She said she noticed the woman was barefoot and a man gave her a pair of sandals, adding: ‘She was really shaking.’
A woman whose home was damaged by the crane said her family are lucky to be alive. In a shaking voice, the woman who did not want to give her name, said the structure’s impact felt ‘like an earthquake’.
She continued: ‘I came out of the bathroom and if I had come out a second later, the attic door which is above could have fallen on me and that would have knocked me out.
‘The way that everything fell – if my brother or sister had been in their rooms which is where it hit directly, I just cannot bear to think about it. If you could see the state of our garden.
‘My dad was walking back into the house to tell everyone ”move, there is a crane coming down”.
‘If anyone had been inside the two rooms there, they would have been completely crushed. It is just lucky that one of my siblings was at work and the other one was downstairs. They would have been completely crushed. It is all just so upsetting.’
Describing the devastation left in her home, she said: ‘There was just rubble and stuff in the doorway. There was smoke and just bits and bobs around.
‘My mum was shouting for me because she thought it had hit me. She was screaming. I was screaming back. I then realised my brother was downstairs and I need to grab whatever I can and just go. I am not sure how I managed to run downstairs because there was stuff everywhere.
‘All the smoke alarms were going off. I went to the sitting room. It sounded to me like an earthquake or almost like a stone that someone had chucked into our home. We are all just so lucky to be alive – that is all I can really say.’
Firefighters scale ladders and peer through the windows of the destroyed home on Wednesday afternoon
Neighbour Bridget Teirney said: ‘Crane behind my building just collapsed in Bow, London. At least one man crushed, crane went through 2 house’
The scene in Bow, east London, where crane has collapsed and torn through the roof of two terraced houses on Wednesday afternoon
At least one person is believed to have been trapped inside the house – a woman was killed and at least four others were injured
Firefighters at the scene of the catastrophe yesterday scale ladders up to the second floor windows to gain access to the property
Part of the crane’s red beam can be seen bending through the roof of the house after it ripped apart the tiles and wooden struts
Firefighters scale ladders up to the the property’s second floor windows during the rescue operation on Wednesday afternoon
Firefighters remove a chest of drawers from the decimated home on Wednesday during the rescue operation
K-9 specialist police units at the scene of the carnage in east London on Wednesday evening after the collapse of the crane at around 2pm
A fire rescue dog on the scene in east London this evening as crews continued to search for anyone who might be trapped in the rubble
She was speaking from beside a police cordon, which had been thrown up inside the densely-packed inner city patch of the capital, but still in the shadow of a large crane that loomed overhead.
Pointing to the machine, she said: ‘Why is that up there, fully loaded and just waiting to hurt somebody? Have you heard the wind and felt how bad the wind has been lately?
‘They keep on building in crowded areas where people walk and live daily. What did they think was going to happen?’
She added: ‘How can people go back in their homes and not feel traumatised? I can feel it all over my body right now. I can feel that it is not right. I feel traumatised.’
Residents have been evacuated to a nearby school and emergency services work within the cordon at the scene. The collapsed crane, which was being used by Swan Housing Association and NU living, is yet to be removed.
Basil Long, a 39-year-old housing lawyer who lives opposite the construction site where the crane came down, said ‘The crane fell 30 metres away.
‘It fortunately fell the other way on a construction site. It was a real shock, I saw it fall. I had actually been in the bedroom at the time.
‘There was a lot of shouting going on. I literally saw it topple over. It was terrifying. You could see the people in the tower trying to run down as fast as they could.
‘After it came down, the site was evacuated and they got people out. I was evacuated at about 3.45pm. We got a knock on the door and said we
‘I’m still shaking. The newbuild is still being built. Thankfully I don’t think anyone was inside. The warning shouts came early enough that I think people had a chance to get away.’
The collapsed crane from the building site side of the structure where it collapsed over the top of a new build of flats and clattered onto houses on the other side
Firefighters working alongside other emergency specialists on Wednesday afternoon after the horrific crane collapse in east London which left at least one woman dead
The London Fire Brigade are working to rescue any people who might be trapped in a terraced house after a 20-meter crane on a nearby building site has collapsed
London Fire Brigade said they have received 14 calls to reports of a crane that has collapsed onto a building in Gale Street, Bow
The scene in Bow, east London, where a 20-metre crane collapsed on to a house leaving people trapped inside
A crane has collapsed in east London reportedly destroying two houses
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: ‘We were called at 2.42pm yesterday to reports of an incident involving a crane collapsing near Watts Grove, Bow’
Firefighters, police and paramedics at the scene of the collapsed crane in east London on Wednesday afternoon
Neighbour Bridget Teirney said: ‘Crane behind my building just collapsed in Bow, London. At least one man crushed, crane went through 2 house.’
She added the crane driver has ‘made it down safely’ but ‘one man, who is responding and being assisted by fire and ambulance is still under the crane’.
A few minutes later she said the man had been freed and was being taken to hospital.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘This is a tragedy. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the victim who died during this incident in Bow. I sincerely hope that the four individuals injured make a full recovery.’
Assistant Commissioner Graham Ellis said earlier Urban Search and Rescue crews had undertaken a ‘complex rescue operation’ to search the two properties.
He added: ‘This is a multi-agency response and is likely to be a protracted incident. I would ask people to avoid the area.’
Aerial footage showed how the huge metal structure ripped through the roof into the top floors of the homes, with windows blowing open from the force of the impact.
Fire crews had deployed a drone to provide aerial imagery to aid the rescue operation.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said he was ‘extremely worried’ by the incident, adding: ‘Council teams are on site supporting emergency services and setting up a rest centre for affected residents in the area.
‘Our thoughts are with everyone affected. Priority is to ensure safety but need answers as to how this happened.’
The Metropolitan Police sent officers to the scene after they were called at around 2.39pm on Wednesday to Gale Street to a report of a crane that had collapsed into a residential property and a building site.
Unite national officer Jerry Swain said there must be ‘an urgent, full and complete investigation into the circumstances that led to this accident’.
He added: ‘The preliminary findings of which must be released in weeks, rather than months or years, in order to ensure that similar accidents are avoided in the future.’
Work on the Watts Grove site began in 2018 where the one, two and three-bed shared ownership apartments are replacing an electrical substation building, according to the NU living website.
Swan Housing Association Chair Valerie Owen and Chief Executive John Synnuck said in a statement: ‘We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family who have lost their loved one as a result of the incident. Your loss is a personal tragedy.
‘We recognise that whilst understanding how this happened will not ease your pain, we would like to reassure you on behalf of our organisation that we will fully support the Health and Safety Executive and the authorities in their investigation so that you can receive a full, transparent answer to how this incident took place.’
A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: ‘HSE is aware of the incident and is in contact with the emergency services.’
Neil Marney, chief executive of Marney Construction, said his company was working on another site and he could see the crane being erected on Tuesday.
He said: ‘My project manager on the site called me immediately and said the crane you were looking at yesterday being erected has just collapsed.
‘So all I could see yesterday was the mast and the cab was on, and then I believe they started to add sections of the boom.’
The crane that collapsed was not one of Marney Construction’s cranes nor was it a crane on one of its sites.