Bow crane collapse: Killed woman was ‘very caring’

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Media captionA 20-metre (65ft) crane crashed on to two properties in Gale Street, Bow

An 85-year-old woman who died when a crane collapsed on to houses and a block of flats in east London has been described as a “very caring woman”.

June Harvey was found on the first floor of one home after the 20m (65ft) crane crashed down in Compton Close, Bow, before 14:40 BST on Wednesday.

Sam Atkinson, her great nephew, said it was a “miracle” he and his mother had also not been killed.

A construction worker still remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Mr Atkinson, 28, was inside one of the damaged houses where he lived with Ms Harvey, his mother Jacqueline Atkinson, 63, and their dog.

Paying tribute to his great aunt, Mr Atkinson said she was “loyal to her family” and her relatives were “devastated by our loss”.

“The last thing you ever think is going to happen is a crane coming through your roof. It’s extremely traumatising,” he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Specialist urban search and rescue crews took part in the operation to find those injured

He said the noise of the collapse was “indescribable” and he had “thought it was a plane crash”.

“As I looked around, the whole house was destroyed and crumbling around me,” he said.

The 28-year-old explained how his mother had been sorting clothes with Ms Harvey in a bedroom and had been “about a metre away from where my aunt was” when the crane came 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,” he said.

The Metropolitan Police said specialist firefighters were working to recover her body from the house, with the operation expected to last throughout the day.

Image copyright London Fire Bridgade
Image caption The crane also crashed on to a block of flats which was under development

The crane collapsed where a block of flats was being built in Watts Grove, falling across the development and on to two adjacent houses.

Witnesses described the collapse as being “like an earthquake”.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said her family felt “so lucky to be alive” as their home was one of those to be damaged.

“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,” she said.

London Ambulance Service said it had treated four people, two of whom were taken to hospital with head injuries.

Image copyright @NattyKelly7
Image caption Witnesses described the collapse as being “like an earthquake”

The crane was being used by Swan Housing Association and NU living to build flats on the site of a former electrical substation building.

Scotland Yard said a joint investigation had begun “involving officers from the Met’s Central East Command Unit and Specialist Crime, the Health and Safety Executive and the London Fire Brigade”.

No arrests have been made and “a scene is expected to remain in place for the next few days”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption London Fire Brigade said it was “likely to be a protracted operation” to rescue Ms Harvey’s body

Tower Hamlets Council said 97 residents from 26 households have been temporarily rehoused in hotel accommodation.

The borough’s mayor, John Biggs, said it was unknown when they would be able to return as the site had to be made safe.

Speaking about the crane, Mr Biggs said he understood it was still being erected at the time it fell.

He said it was important to “learn any lessons” and find out if there were “any errors” which led to the collapse.

“A lot of people will be worried by this and… there’s a question of public assurance as well,” the mayor said.

A spokeswoman for Swan Housing Association and NU living said they were “deeply saddened by an incident that has occurred at our Watts Grove development site”.