Man killed in explosion at building site in Swains Lane
Neighbours say they felt their homes shake by the force of the blast
The scene in Swains Lane [Pic Camden New Journal]
A MAN has died following an explosion in Highgate, police said.
Paramedics were scrambled to the building site at the bottom end of Swains Lane at just after 2pm this afternoon (Thursday). Roads remain closed off.
The man, aged in his fifties, was rushed to hospital with “life threatening injuries”, but was later pronounced dead, police said.
The site was once home to a petrol station and part of the demolition work has included removing underground tanks. It is believed the tanks were being cut in half when the explosion occurred.
The sound of the explosion was heard across Hampstead Heath, while neighbours say they felt their homes shake by 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 New Journal 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 shop keepers came rushing out to see if they could help and the police and ambulance were here immediately.”
Police at the scene after the blast
Sally Alstrop, who works at a psychotherapy clinic, said: “My entire office shook. I saw a builder, he had quite a lot of blood on him and was moaning.”
The air ambulance helicopter landed on Parliament Hill Fields
Milo Landin, who lives a street away in St Albans Road, said the force was such his door shook and items fell off his living room mantelpiece. “I could feel the pressure on my ears.” added.
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.
Highgate councillor and Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry said: “It’s absolutely shocking. I went down there last weekend and I managed to get on the site. There was a big tank that used to store petrol.”
Picture of the site from inside the hoardings taken by Sian Berry last weekend
She added: “I don’t know if it was that that exploded. It might not be that at all, but I know they were some tanks there that they had to excavate.”
Owners Noble House, who bought the parade rom the Earl of Listowel, unveiled a construction management plan earlier this year to neighbours and civic group. 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 said two fire engines and their crews were currently at the scene and “standing by”.