Huge scaffolding column collapses outside the Royal Free Hospital, narrowly missing young mum
PUBLISHED: 15:30 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:11 07 March 2019
A huge raft of scaffolding collapsed outside the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead this afternoon, narrowly missing a young mother and leaving bystanders in shock.
Miraculously, no one is thought to have been hurt.
The scaffolding is thought to have been above Le Pain Quotidien coffee shop, which told the Ham&High it was not connected to the work taking place.
Police and firefighters attended, and Pond Street was closed.
Belsize Park mum Gergana Kabakova, 29, told the Ham&High she had been underneath the scaffolding with her six-week-old baby when the scaffolding collapsed, waiting for her partner to get a coffee.
She said: “The minute he came out, we heard a strange noise and saw the scaffolding collapsing.
“We immediately started running with the pram towards the nearby bus which was stopped there.
“It was a truly traumatic experience. I am still in shock, and the thought of what could have happened to us makes me shake and cry.
“It is truly unacceptable nowadays to see such things happening. I am keen to know who was responsible for setting up the scaffolding and signing off the health and safety.”
At 20 past five in the evening, the Royal Free Hospital confirmed that it was no longer on standby.
A spokesperson added: “Thankfully nobody was hurt in the incident.
“We are continuing with planned appointments although transport to and from the hospital is affected. Please allow extra time for your journey if you have an appointment.
Local councillor Maria Higson (Hampstead Town, Conservative), who stood down as trustee of the hospital in February, was on the scene shortly after the collapse.
She told this newspaper: “From what I’ve been told there was a little bit of warning, bricks falling from the building, and thank god that must’ve given everyone enough time to get out from underneath it.
“So it doesn’t seem that there’s been anyone injured. The police have been sterling, as ever.”
A member of staff at Hampstead Hill Primary School told us: “We’re all OK. We were affected in that we’re on Pond Street but that’s all. The police have told us that no-one was hurt or injured.”
The Heath and Hampstead Society’s Ron Vester was among those nearby.
“It’s absolute chaos,” he said. “I can’t understand how no one’s been injured but that’s what they’re saying.”
A member of staff at ALB Scaffolding, the firm that fitted the scaffolding, could not say what had happened, but admitted: “It could well have just been the wind, because it will have caught the plastic sheeting and that can give it nowhere to go.”
One local man told the Ham&High his partner had been on a bus that was narrowly missed when the scaffolding collapsed. He said: “She just called me in a panic – said she’d nearly been killed.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “We were called to reports of a scaffolding collapse on the roadway in Pond Street.
“We currently have two fire engines and three fire rescue units on the scene. We were called at 14.48.”
The Health and Safety Executive has been approached for comment. Title deeds for the property show it is owned by a company headquartered in the Virgin Islands, which also owns a number of neighbouring buildings.
The firm could not be immediately reached for comment.
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