Man killed in building site explosion
Victim who was in his 50s dies at street development owned by Islington property company
Police and firefighters at the Swains Lane site yesterday afternoon
A MAN has died following an explosion on a building site owned by an Islington property development firm.
The man, who is in his 50s, was rushed to hospital with “life-threatening injuries”, but was later pronounced dead, police said.
Paramedics scrambled to the site at the bottom end of Swains Lane, Highgate, at just after 2pm yesterday (Thursday). Roads were closed off for several hours.
The sound of the explosion was heard across Hampstead Heath, while neighbours say they felt their homes shake due to the force of the blast. It is thought to have left a crater hole on the site.
Professional pianist Tess Uys, who lives directly opposite the site, told the Tribune she was practising when the huge explosion shook her home. She said: “It made my floorboards completely vibrate. It was terribly loud, a huge, huge explosion. All the shopkeepers came rushing out to see if they could help and the police and ambulance were here immediately.”
Sally Alstrop, who works at a nearby psychotherapy clinic, said: “My entire office shook. I saw a builder, he had quite a lot of blood on him.”
Work has begun in recent weeks on the redevelopment of the parade of shops at the start of the road. The site was once home to a petrol station and part of the demolition work has included removing underground tanks.
Owners Noble House, based in City Garden Row, off City Road, bought the parade from the Earl of Listowel last year. They unveiled a construction management plan to neighbours and civic groups earlier this year.
The 1930s terrace is due to be replaced by eight new shops and 12 houses. The project also includes a plan to widen the pavements at the junction of Highgate West Hill and Swains Lane, plant new trees and provide an area that could be used by a new café for seating.
A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: “We were called at 14.08 to an industrial incident at a building site in Swains Lane, Highgate.” The spokeswoman added that two fire engines and their crews were at the scene and “standing by”.
The company was contacted for comment but was not able to respond before the Tribune went to press.