Home / News / London family in 'agonising' wait for answers 3 years after aunt, 85, killed when crane collapsed on their house

London family in 'agonising' wait for answers 3 years after aunt, 85, killed when crane collapsed on their house

Sep 24, 2023Sep 24, 2023

The grieving mum and son were forced to live in a hotel for six months due to the damage to the house

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A family from the East End of London are suing the companies they claim are responsible for a crane collapse that crushed their house and killed their aunt three years ago. Mum and son Jacqueline and Sam Atkinson, 66 and 31, are taking three companies to court after a crane collapsed on their house in Bow, killing their aunt, 85, in July 2020.

On July 8, 2020, a 26-metre crane crashed through the roof of the family's house, killing June Harvey. Jacqueline and Sam were also injured in the collapse, and it has caused both of them mental health problems.

In total four people were injured as the crane collapse d on two terraced houses on Compton Close, London Fire Brigade confirmed at the time. The Atkinson's house was destroyed, and the collapsed crane was not removed until December 2020.

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A local resident whose home was damaged during the crane collapse told the PA news agency that day her family was lucky to be alive. She said the collapse sounded "like an earthquake". She added: “How can people go back in their homes and not feel traumatised?"

And horrific photos from the scene show a giant red crane has crashed through the building site and right through the roof of a terraced house across the road. Pictures show a gaping hole in the roof, which has destroyed much of the house.

Mother and son Jacqueline and Sam were forced to live in a hotel for six months, provided by their landlord, Gateway Housing. However, the Atkinsons were then offered an "uninhabitable" property without a kitchen by Tower Hamlets Council, and when they refused to accept the property, they faced eviction.

It took the efforts of support groups and friends to make the proposed home for the Atkinsons fit to move into. Tower Hamlets Council have acknowledged this, and a spokesperson said in response to the claim: "The family was offered and accepted a two-bedroom house after being granted priority access.

"Their previous landlord, Gateway Housing, and their new landlord, Tower Hamlets Homes, spent £6,054 on improvements to the property to ensure it was redecorated and comfortable to move into. This included a new fitted kitchen."

Gateway Housing added: "In a successful collaboration, Gateway Housing Association and Tower Hamlets Homes (THH) have effectively relocated a family from their previous residence to a refurbished home. Despite initial challenges, we assertively addressed the issues, elevating the property to meet our stringent housing standards, ensuring the family's satisfaction with their new residence."

But now, three years later, the Atkinsons are demanding answers from the companies involved in the crane collapse - Swan Commercial Services Limited, PGCS Partnership Limited (In liquidation) and Swan Housing Association Limited. The family have begun legal proceedings against the three companies, accusing them of negligence.

They allege the companies failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the crane was constructed, inspected, erected and located to ensure it would not topple over. They also claim the companies failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the crane was safe, and that there were "many deficiencies" in how the companies carried out building the crane, which led to it collapsing.

The family have claimed Swan Commercial Services Ltd have breached three regulations from the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, which they say led to the crane collapsing.

Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) and the Construction Safety Campaign are calling for the police, who still have primacy in this case, to conclude the investigation they have still not finished. This has meant June's inquest has still not taken place.

Sam Atkinson said: "I feel very disappointed and let down by the authorities who are supposed to be there to protect us and it feels like they have completely disregarded us and our mental health. Not only is the lack of answers frustrating, but also the serious lack of communication between the police/HSE and ourselves. The wait for the conclusion to the investigation has been agonising and I really hope we know more about the cause of the accident which led to my aunt's death very soon."

The Atkinsons are being represented by lawyer Helen Clifford, who said: "June's family's lives have been turned upside down. They still don't know what went wrong or why. They have been failed by the council, by the police and HSE. They demand that the police conclude their investigations as a matter of urgency so that they can finally have the answers they so desperately need."

In response to these allegations, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police has said: "Friday, 8 July, marks the third anniversary of a crane collapse in Bow. Sadly, June Harvey, a local resident died as a result of the collapse and others were injured.

"Following the incident, a joint investigation was commenced between the Metropolitan Police Service and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), with the police taking the lead." Detective Inspector Emma Sharp added: "Our thoughts are with June Harvey's family and the local residents whose lives were affected that day.

"The investigation – which is complex and requires support from specialist agencies – remains ongoing. We are determined to establish the facts, and what led to the tragic death of one elderly resident and injuries to others. We are continuing to work closely with both the HSE and the Crown Prosecution Service to establish if any criminal offences have occurred, and this will be determined by conducting a thorough investigation."

Gordon Nixon HSE Inspector said: "This has been a challenging and thorough investigation while good progress has been made, enquiries are ongoing. We understand this is still a difficult time for June's family as we approach the anniversary and we remain committed to bringing this investigation to a conclusion as soon as possible."

A Swan spokesperson, representing both the housing association and commercial services, said: "We remain fully committed to supporting the authorities' investigation into this tragic incident. However, as the process is ongoing, we would not make any further comment at this stage."

After being contacted through the liquidator, PGCS Partnership Ltd declined to comment in response to the claims being made against them.

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