‘Lucky escape’ after scaffolding collapses in Reading

A pedestrian had a “very lucky escape” after she was hit by scaffolding which collapsed suddenly on a demolition site, a witness has said.

Three people were taken to hospital after the incident in Reading town centre, which saw “bricks and wood going flying” and “could have been a lot worse”.

A site worker at the former Friars Walk Shopping Centre was treated for a head injury, while a man and a woman were treated for suspected shock and an ankle injury, respectively.

None of the three was seriously hurt, but all were taken to hospital following the incident on Garrard Street, shortly after 11.15am on Thursday.

Emergency services at the scene in Reading
Emergency services at the scene in Reading (Steve Parsons/PA)

Emergency staff could be seen with dogs searching the wreckage at around 3pm.

A personal assistant who gave her name only as Amy told PA she was having coffee on the 14th floor of the nearby Thames Tower building when she saw the scaffolding move.

She said: “I thought ‘that’s moving way too fast’ and then it just collapsed.

“I saw people running away from it. It was like a movie. Bricks and wood going flying and a cloud of rubble smoke.

“There was a lady at the end who just didn’t make it. It sort of just covered her as it fell.

“She was maybe in her 60s. I saw her being pulled out and put in the recovery position. She was moving around so I think she was OK.

“There was a worker in the rubble as it fell but his fall looked like it was broken and he was able to jump out of it.

“I think it could have been a lot worse. The people that were there had a very lucky escape. It was quite traumatising.”

We are at a scaffolding collapse on Garrard Street (photo: @getreading) treating 2 patients for non-life-threatening injuries. Working with @ThamesVP & @RBFRSofficial who are using thermal imaging equipment to search the collapsed structure. Road closures in place pls avoid area pic.twitter.com/A7WH1MvwoO

— SCAS (@SCAS999) August 1, 2019

Pictures posted online showed a section of scaffolding surrounding a building had collapsed, covering a section of road.

Images show a digger parked behind the crumpled part of the structure.

Firefighters earlier used thermal imaging equipment to search for anyone who may have been trapped but a firefighter at the scene said no-one had been found.

Tony Heselton, incident commander for South Central Ambulance Service, said: “Our emergency operations control room team took upwards of 10 emergency calls from around 11.15am all reporting a scaffolding collapse at the former Friars Walk Shopping Centre.

“We have assessed three patients who sustained minor injuries as a result of the collapse.

“We are remaining on scene to support colleagues from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.”

Thames Valley Police advised people to avoid the area, with Garrard Street closed in both directions and congestion in Greyfriars Road.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokesman said: “We are aware of an incident and are making initial inquiries.”

The site was being demolished as part of a major redevelopment in the town centre and was previously used as retail and office space, Reading Council said.

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