A vigil for June Harvey will be held on Thursday 8th July 2021 at 12 noon in Compton Close, Bow, East London, E3 3RS.
On 8th July 2020 a tower crane, which had been erected the day before, collapsed and crashed through the roofs of houses in Compton Road, Bow. June Harvey, aged 85 died. June’s niece, Jacqueline Atkinson, and great nephew were suffered minor physical injuries but significant psychological trauma. Two employees of the crane company, Wolffkran, were also injured, one seriously. The crane was operating on a site owned by Swan Housing and fell across occupied houses belonging to Gateway.
46 houses were evacuated, around a hundred people. Jacqueline Atkinson and her son Sam had to spend 6 months in hotel accommodation. They said it felt like no one cared about them. They’d lost a member of their family, their home, and all their possessions.
The other residents of Compton Close were also out of their homes for a long while. Two months after the collapse Tower Hamlets wrote to residents saying: ”…we are pleased to have been able to arrange short visits to allow many of you to collect belongings.” On 1st February 2021 Swan Housing Association wrote to residents to say: “The properties in Compton Close and David Hewitt House on Watts Grove have been handed back to the owner, Gateway Housing Association.”
When I went to Compton Close today to take the photo above, a resident came out to tell me that June Harvey and her family were her friends. She said she was still traumatised, and very angry about the way they’d all been treated. She said that the housing association and Tower Hamlets were doing nothing. Nothing.
Hilda Palmer of Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) put Sam Atkinson in touch with Helen Clifford a very experienced solicitor on construction incidents who now represents the family. Jacqueline and Sam were threatened with eviction this January because they refused to accept a property Tower Hamlets Council offered them, as it did not have a kitchen and was uninhabitable. Hilda Palmer said: “Interventions helped to prevent their eviction but they had to rely on the help of friends to make the house fit to move into.”
I find this situation totally ridiculous. It should be automatic that Gateway Housing Association and Tower Hamlets Council should make a special effort to help people thrown into a crisis like this.
The Crown Prosecution Service, the Police, and the Health and Safety Executive are investigating the cause of the tower crane collapse.
At the vigil residents of Compton Close will be calling for faster action from the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as calling for better safety rules for cranes.
Back in March, local MP, Apsana Begum, spoke in a Commons debate saying the rules about who can plan and operate tower cranes were “worryingly vague” with no certification system in place. She commented on a 2006 crane collapse in Battersea which killed two people. Apsana Begum said: “I am conscious that the investigation into culpability for the aforementioned Battersea crane incident took 10 years to discover that 24 bolts were faulty in the crane that collapsed.”
The 100 residents who were out of their homes for 6 months in and around Compton Close need compensation right now for the aggravation, emotional upheaval, and financial loss they have suffered. It looks to me like the owners of the site which installed the crane, Swan Housing Association, should pay that. They can later reclaim the money from the subcontractors they employed.