Man tells of ‘miracle’ escape as crane collapse killed great aunt

June Harvey, 85, died and others were injured in the incident in east London on Wednesday.

View of the damage caused in Bow, east London, where a 20-metre crane collapsed on to a house (Victoria Jones/PA)
View of the damage caused in Bow, east London, where a 20-metre crane collapsed on to a house (Victoria Jones/PA)

A man has told of his “miracle” escape after a crane collapsed onto his house in east London, killing his 85-year-old great aunt.

June Harvey died while others were injured, including a construction worker who is in a critical condition in hospital, on Wednesday afternoon.

Almost 100 people have been evacuated from their homes after the 20-metre crane fell on a site where flats were being constructed, and crashed into two terraced houses in Compton Close, Bow.

Sam Atkinson, 28, who lived with Ms Harvey, along with his mother Jacqueline Atkinson, 63, and their dog, told the PA news agency: “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.

The scene in Bow, east London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The scene in Bow, east London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“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.

“The neighbours called me to the front, where she was at the front window,” he said.

“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’s family have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for costs (https://uk.gf.me/v/c/gfm/bow-crane-disaster).

He  paid tribute to Ms Harvey as a “very caring woman, who was “loyal to her family”.

“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 said.

“We are devastated by our loss.

Crane collapse in Bow
Emergency personnel at the scene (Victoria Jones/PA)

“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.”

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.

Mayor John Biggs said construction sites and cranes were a common sight in the borough, and they had no reason to believe there were other sites at risk.

“It is nonetheless vital that all developers and construction companies stay alert and keep their procedures up to date at all times,” he said.

“Today, we have written to all the major developers operating in Tower Hamlets to ask them to review their safety practices and inspections, particularly where they are using cranes or heavy lifting equipment.”

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