06 Jul 2023 By Ian Weinfass
Two victims of the 2020 Bow crane collapse are suing a housing association and structural engineers over the incident, and have slammed the length of time the official investigation is taking.
On 8 July 2020, 85-year-old June Harvey (pictured below) died after a 27-metre crane crashed through the roof of the house she shared with her niece, Jacqueline Atkinson, and great nephew, Sam Atkinson.
engineer sydneyJacqueline, 66, and Sam, 31, both suffered physical and psychiatric injuries, and their house was destroyed.
This week they have issued claims against Swan Housing Association, its subsidiary Swan Commercial Services, and PGCS Partnership over the incident.
Swan owned the land and was building 65 units of social housing at Watts Grove, Bow. Essex-based PGCS Partnership was a consulting engineer on the job.
In papers issued at court the victims state the crane relied on four steel legs resting on concrete pads specifically constructed for its stability.
They claim Swan had a manufacturer make the pads with only one layer of steel reinforcement. PGCS had made a plan for the pads which involved two layers of reinforcement, but as the pads had already been constructed, it revised the plan to incorporate a series of steel bars being drilled into the side of the pads instead.
However, despite the addition of the bars there was a gap in the centre of the pads where only the original single layer of reinforcement existed, according to the claim.
While the crane was being erected one of the pads failed and the crane toppled over onto June Harvey’s house, the documents say.
The claim adds: “The entire scheme was carried out in a hurry without allowing any time for inspection, checking whether the design of the support was adequate or reflection, the result of which was the production of a defective and dangerous scheme likely to produce failure of the crane and grave danger to all in the vicinity.”
After the incident more than 100 other people living nearby had to be evacuated from their homes, and some are still living in temporary accommodation.
PGCS went into liquidation in July last year but is yet to be dissolved.
The family have also criticised the time taken for the investigation, which is being led by the Metropolitan Police with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
In a statement 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 and 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.”
Helen Clifford, the lawyer representing the Atkinsons, said: “June’s family’s lives have been turned upside down. They still don’t know what went wrong or why.
“They demand that the police conclude their investigations as a matter of urgency so they can finally have the answers they so desperately need.
“The companies responsible for the collapse have sheltered behind these delays to avoid accepting responsibility for their negligence, to avoid making any payments to my clients or to fund any rehabilitation for them. It is simply unacceptable that three years on we are still in this position. We have issued proceedings in order to compel these companies to accept responsibility and to pay my clients the compensation they are entitled to.”
A Swan Housing Association spokesperson 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.”
Construction News has contacted Begbies Traynor, the insolvency practitioner handling the liquidation of PGCS Partnership, for comment.
Earlier this year CN highlighted that it takes more than a year to investigate around one in five fatal safety incidents in England and Wales and there are examples of them taking far longer, including the 2016 Didcot Power Station collapse, 2017 Grenfell Tower fire and 2018 death of Kayla Boor hit by bricks as she walked past a building site in Bow.
Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse where the 2020 crane collapse took place, said she was concerned that the investigation was still not concluded. “June’s family and more than 90 others remain deeply impacted by this incident, with some still living in temporary accommodation. The ongoing impact on their health and wellbeing cannot be overstated.”
Begum has previously called in parliament for tougher regulations on crane use, and questioned whether underfunding of the HSE has affected its performance. She said: “I will continue to call on the government to ensure that legislation and guidance regulating cranes are robust and that regulators such as the Health and Safety Executive are given the resources for rigorous enforcement and investigatory bodies such as the police are given the resources to conclude their investigations in a swift manner.”
The Metropolitan Police and HSE have been contacted for comment.

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