Nephew of ‘lovely’ aunt, 85, killed in London crane collapse tells of horrifying screams as house crumbled around them

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THE nephew of a “lovely” pensioner killed by a falling crane yesterday has told of the horrifying screams as their house crumbled around them.

The woman killed in the crane collapse has today been named by her family as 85-year-old June Harvey.

The 65ft crane fell on houses and flats in Bow, East London, at around 2.30pm yesterday.

Firefighters using drones found June’s body on the first floor of a house – but are still working to recover it almost 24 hours later.

The Fire Brigade has warned it will be a “protracted operation” and residents won’t be able to return home while the investigation is ongoing.

Four people were also hurt when the crane collapsed. A construction worker remains in hospital in critical condition.

June’s great nephew, Sam Atkinson, 28, who lived with her, along with his mum Jacqueline Atkinson, 63, and their dog, described her as a “very caring woman” who was “loyal to her family”.

Mr Atkinson said the noise was so loud he thought a plane had crashed.

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 mum.

“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.”

He added: “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. 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.

 “We’ve lost all our possessions. Our whole life was in that house.

“We’ve had issues with our breathing since it happened, we inhaled a lot of dust.”

Sharing a video of the horror, Mr Atkinson wrote on Facebook: “Watching this video and listening to our screams makes it all seem real.

“The fear and shock of having your house collapse around you, not being up to get to your loved ones because the whole staircase is full of rubble is unexplainable.

“Today we will start to look for answers into why and how this happened. Words can’t describe how devastated we all are.”

The pair, and their beloved Yorkshire terrier Teddy, are now staying at Sam’s brother’s house.

He continued: “I had to buy some clothes today. What I was wearing was all I managed to leave with.”

Paying tribute to June, Jade Lote wrote: “June was such a lovely lady. My mum worked with her years ago. RIP June xxx”

Friend Linda Martin said: “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.”

The 20-metre crane fell on a site where flats were being constructed, and crashed into two terraced houses in Compton Close, Bow.

Rahana Rahman, 26, lives in a terraced house on the row smashed by the crane and said it felt like an “earthquake”.

The lawyer said: “The whole house shook so much and I can hear my mum just screaming because I was the only one upstairs.

“She thought that it had hit me. The doors were all closed but literally it was just smoke everywhere.

“If I had been in the bathroom, the attic would have come down on me. It would have knocked me out.”

Footage showed a large crowd gathered in the area as neighbours were ordered to evacuate their houses.

Basil Long, 39, lives opposite the construction site in Gale Road where the crane came down.

He said: “It was a real shock, I saw it fall. I had actually been in the bedroom at the time.

“I literally saw it topple over. It was terrifying.”

A cordon is expected to remain in place for the next few days.

It is understood the crane was still in the process of being erected when it collapsed.

A large part of the roof could be seen to be completely caved in on one of the houses.

The crane that collapsed was being used by Swan Housing Association and NU living, and appeared to be a Wolff crane.

A spokeswoman for Swan Housing Association and NU living said they are “deeply saddened by an incident that has occurred at our Watts Grove development site this afternoon”, adding: “Our staff are on site to provide support to the emergency response and the investigation.”

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.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets said a rest centre has been set up to help people who have been evacuated and accommodation is being provided to those who need it.

A joint investigation is underway involving officers from the Met’s Central East Command Unit and Specialist Crime, the Health and Safety Executive, and the London Fire Brigade.

There have been no arrests and enquiries continue.

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