Crane operator rescues pair from McAlpine site in Reading

Two people were dramatically rescued by crane from a roof on an under-construction office block during the second fire in five months at a Reading building site.

The blaze broke out on Thursday morning (23 November) at an 18-storey office tower being built by Sir Robert McAlpine as part of the town’s £750m Station Hill redevelopment.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said 50 firefighters attended the incident after a fire was discovered in a high-rise building under construction.

“We understand that two people were rescued by crane and have been placed in the care of South Central Ambulance Service,” it said.

“All other people have been accounted for at this time.”

Construction News understands the crane is owned by Sir Robert McAlpine.

The crane operator has been named in news reports as Glen Edwards, aged 65, from Egham.

Edwards was quoted in the Independent newspaper as saying: “I tried to put the cage down between him and the flames, but I was hampered by the wind swirling around there. But I got the cage down and I managed to get him in there.”

Wayne Bowcock, chief fire officer at the fire service, said: “Following today’s fire in Reading town centre, I would like to add my thanks to the crane operator for an incredibly skilful rescue under extremely difficult circumstances. Without their actions, we may be looking at an entirely different scenario.”

South Central Ambulance Service confirmed that two patients had been taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital for further assessment for smoke inhalation.

“Fortunately, neither patient was in a serious condition,” a spokesperson said.

The contractor thanked those on the site for their quick thinking.

“We are thankful that everybody was evacuated to a place of safety and we are very grateful for the swift action taken by everyone on the site,” a spokesperson for Sir Robert McAlpine said.

The firm was appointed two years ago as lead contractor for the second phase of the Station Hill regeneration, which includes a glazed tower providing 26,000 square metres of office space, a new public square and a link bridge providing access from the train station to the town centre.

The office block is 18 storeys at its highest point, stepping down to 16 storeys and then again to nine storeys, from where the two workers were rescued.

The scheme is being developed for client Lincoln MGT, a joint venture between Lincoln Property Company and MGT Investment Management.

The office element hit by the blaze was due for completion early next year.

The first phase of the scheme – a development of 600 build-to-rent flats for which Midgard is the main contractor – is due to be completed before the end of the year.

The incident follows the evacuation of workers in a major fire at the development in July.

The first phase of the project was also the site of a serious accident four years ago, when the partial collapse of a building being demolished by McGee brought down scaffolding into the street, injuring one site worker and two bystanders.

Construction News has contacted Lincoln MGT for comment.

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