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24 November 2023

Crane worker who lifted man from blazing building in incredible rescue says it was ‘close call’

24 November 2023

A crane worker who lifted a man to safety from a burning high-rise building in Reading said the rescue was a “close call” as flames and smoke billowed around him.

Two men were rescued by crane and taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation after the large fire broke out at the Station Hill development site in the Berkshire town on Thursday morning.

Footage showed the moment Glen Edwards used the winch he was operating to move a cage towards a workman trapped on the building surrounded by flames and thick smoke.

Crowds below broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air.

Mr Edwards, 65, from Egham, Surrey told the PA news agency: “I was no more than 20 metres up in the air and I looked out my left-hand window and saw a guy standing on the corner of the building.

“I’d only just seen him and someone said ‘can you get the cage on’, so that was it, I got the cage on and got it over to him the best I could.

“It was quite windy conditions.”

He went on: “I would say it was a very close call, if you look at the video at the way the wind was swirling around there.

“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.”

The man was then lifted to the ground.

Mr Edwards, who had been working at the site before the blaze broke out, played down his heroics, adding: “I don’t want to blow it up too much, I’m not that sort of person.”

Another man was also lifted from the building by crane, firefighters have said.

The manager of the Greyfriar pub opposite the burning building said she provided food and drink to builders evacuated from the site, including one of the men rescued by crane.

The woman, who wished not to be named, told the PA news agency: “One of the builders came in and said ‘oh, can I get a bottle of water?’

“Because he was with the guy who was rescued by the crane, this guy was okay but having a panic attack.

“He went to pay and I was like ‘please just have it, take more’.”

Christopher Hutton, of the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Just after half 11 today, we received reports of a fire on Station Hill in Reading.

“At its peak, over 50 firefighters were on the scene from fire stations across the county.

“Crews found the fire in a high-rise building under construction.

“Firefighters equipped with breathing apparatus used two main jets to extinguish the fire.

“We understand that two people were rescued by a crane and have been placed in the care of South Central Ambulance Service and fortunately, all other people were accounted for.

“The fire has now been extinguished and we have scaled back our resources at the incident, but a number of crews will remain at the scene at this time to dampen down.”

A South Central Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “I can confirm we’ve taken two people to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for further assessment and treatment for smoke inhalation, neither of whom were severe cases.”

Redwood Consulting, on behalf of Station Hill, said: “We activated our fire emergency plans immediately, the emergency services were notified and are currently on site.

“The safety of those on site and the wider public is always our first priority, and the site has been evacuated as a result.”

The £750 million Station Hill development, close to Reading station, is intended to be a business and living quarter for the town.

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