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Review of the year 2019: Near death misses, heroic Clapton life savers, Bridport House fiasco and Finsbury Park flood

PUBLISHED: 08:50 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:23 31 December 2019

Flood water on the Kings Crescent Estate N4. Brian Bicknell looks at the debris in the living room of the ground floor flat he shares with his wife Margaret.  Picture: Polly Hancock

Flood water on the Kings Crescent Estate N4. Brian Bicknell looks at the debris in the living room of the ground floor flat he shares with his wife Margaret. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Mystery man narrowly avoids death

The bricks fell from above Stokey Vintage Cafe. Picture: Niki ShoreThe bricks fell from above Stokey Vintage Cafe. Picture: Niki Shore

In March a pedestrian walking down Stoke Newington High Street narrowly avoided death when a huge chunk of wall fell from the top of a building just a second after he walked past.

CCTV footage went viral that showed the man - who was never identified - walk past Stokey Vintage Cafe literally one second before strong winds caused the bricks to smash to the ground on March 11.

Winds of up to 65mph battered London, causing trees to fall on rail lines and scaffolding to collapse in west London.

Bobby Kasanga was out fundraising for his football club Hackney Wick FC in Sainsbury's when he heard the deafening thud from the building opposite.

He said: "We were in the back but when we heard Miit we thought: 'Whoa. What's happened here' and ran outside.

A massive pillar fell from the tenth floor of a building site where Hackney New Primary School will be sited. It narrowly avoided hitting a woman waiting at the traffic light junction in her Mini, pictured in the foreground. Picture: Kapil GuptaA massive pillar fell from the tenth floor of a building site where Hackney New Primary School will be sited. It narrowly avoided hitting a woman waiting at the traffic light junction in her Mini, pictured in the foreground. Picture: Kapil Gupta

"After we saw the rubble we went back inside to watch CCTV to see what happened and how lucky the guy was."

The Gazette tried to track down the man in the following weeks but no one has ever come forward.

Mini driver also narrowly avoids death

The Health and Safety Executive is still investigating how a concrete pillar plunged 10 storeys off of a construction site in De Beauvoir six months ago, narrowly missing a woman driving past in her Mini.

Emergency services in Kenninghall Road.Emergency services in Kenninghall Road.

The near-miss happened in July at the former Kingsland Fire Station site where Hackney New Primary School and 89 flats were being built by developers Thornsett and the Benyon Estate on land bought by the Department for Education.

Just a week later, a chunk of metal fell eight storeys off the same building - another incident still under investigation.

Hackney New School secondary went through a turbulent year too, going through two head teachers within a week just a few days before both accidents, leading the entire board of trustees to quit. Ofsted inspectors rated the school "inadequate" across the board in June. Head Charlotte Whelan who took over promised her strong leadership would ensure rapid improvements.

Mosque worshippers risk lives to save neighbours from fire

Gooch House. Picture: Yasemin Craggs MersinogluGooch House. Picture: Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu

Worshippers leaving night prayers in Lower Clapton during Ramadan risked their lives by running to the top floor of a burning building to rescue hundreds of people on May 30.

Members of Madina Mosque, near the Lea Bridge roundabout, spotted a fire on the eighth floor of Gooch House in Kenninghall Road at about 2.40am, and after breaking in began banging on all the doors - starting with flats on the 18th floor.

Thanks to their efforts, by the time firefighters arrived everyone had escaped. Proud mosque chair Mohammed Sidat said it showed a side of Islam people didn't always get to hear about. People in the block also heaped praise on them for their bravery and the story went viral, with Sadiq Khan praising the heroes.

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"They are fasting but spent an hour running up and down 18 floors," said one man, Ahmed. "They broke their way in not knowing what was inside. It could have been a lot worse - they risked their lives."

Flooding in Queen's Drive. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyFlooding in Queen's Drive. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Bridport House fiasco

A year after Hackney Council reassured the Gazette there was nothing wrong with Bridport House, social housing tenants were told in August they would have to leave the ill-fated block because it might be demolished.

In August 2018 we reported tenants feared the award-winning eight-storey block next to Shoreditch Park, that was the first council housing built in Hackney for 40 years, was falling down because of its crumbling, cracked and wonky brickwork.

The council was quick to dispel rumours there was anything wrong, although engineers were carrying out tests on the defective building built in 2011. In February a balcony fell off, and by April fire wardens were installed 24/7. In August the shock announcement was made that its insulation was potentially combustible and should never have been used in a tower block over 18m high. In September the council decided to repair the block that was built by Willmott Dixon rather than knock it down, but tenants must move out for three years.

Michael Jones outside Bridport House, which is covered in scaffolding. Picture: Polly HancockMichael Jones outside Bridport House, which is covered in scaffolding. Picture: Polly Hancock

Finsbury Park flood

A pipe that burst on October 8 left streets around Finsbury Park under water - and over three months later 70 households are still unable to return home.

Some people living in Queen's Drive, Brownswood Road and surrounding streets had to be rescued from their flooded homes by firefighters when they woke up to find the whole area flooded.

Basement properties were "neck high" in water and completely ruined. Thames Water has given each of the 70 households who were unable to return home by Christams £5,000, separate to any insurance claims, for the "inconvenience".

Tashaûn Aird, 15, died after he was allegedly stabbed in Hackney on Monday, May 6. Picture: Met PoliceTashaûn Aird, 15, died after he was allegedly stabbed in Hackney on Monday, May 6. Picture: Met Police

One family-of-five forced out of their home have had to move four times and are now packed into a tiny two-bed flat.

"My husband has had to leave his job because he has to pick up the children," said Monika Aktas who has no idea how long it will be before they can move back home. "It's very stressful. We have no presents and no Christmas tree this year. It's just a nightmare."

Knife crime deaths

Four people were tragically killed through knife crime in Hackney in 2019 - down from eight the year before.

Father-of-five Steve Brown, 47, was fatally stabbed in Matthias Road, on April 17. Although nine people were arrested within a week, they were all released and no one has yet been charged.

Within one week Joshua White, 29, died after being stabbed through the heart in Frampton Park Road on April 26. Three people have been charged with his murder and are due to go on trial in March

Then 15-year-old Tashaun Aird was stabbed to death in Somerford Grove on May 1. Three teenagers were found guilty of killing him at the Old Bailey just before Christmas, while the fourth died over the summer while waiting to go on trial. They will be sentenced in January.

Exauce Ngimbi, 22, was attacked during a fight in Clarence Road and Clarence Mews in Lower Clapton on December 5 and sadly died at the scene. One man has been charged with his murder.

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