Exclusive: Dagenham woman carried through first-floor window after seven-hour rescue op
PUBLISHED: 11:45 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:08 16 May 2013
Firefighters used a stretcher to remove a woman from a Dagenham flat piled high with clutter during a seven-hour rescue operation.
The incident on Tuesday was sparked by care workers’ concerns over the woman’s health.
Stunned neighbours watched as emergency crews used a cherry picker to reach the flat, which is above a takeaway shop, and removed a window to get to her.
Stacks of rubbish fell to the ground as the window frame was cut away.
The Rush Green woman, who is believed to be in her 60s and has not been named, lived in the flat with her adult carer son. Both were described as “vulnerable” by social services.
Council workers had become worried for the bedridden woman’s welfare after losing contact with the pair, and had been unable to gain access to the flat through the front door when they raised the alarm.
Neighbours said the woman’s son had spoken to firefighters throughout the seven-hour rescue on Tuesday, May 14.
Bernadette Angel, who works at a neighbouring florist, said: “Social services had been knocking on the door for months.”
Her husband Frank added: “I don’t think she mixed with anybody – it was just her and her son.”
Another neighbour, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “I used to talk to her when I saw her, but I hadn’t seen her for a long time – since well before Christmas.”
And a nearby butcher’s worker, who wished to be known only as Paul, said: “I hadn’t seen her for about a year, but she was quite mobile then.”
Witness June Gundlack said the flat “looked odd from the outside”.
She added: “When the firefighters were breaking in, you could see rubbish right up to the ceiling. There were lots of people watching – it caused quite a stir.”
After hours debating the best and safest way to get the woman out of her home, firefighters removed an entire window frame so the stretcher could be lifted through.
A council spokesman said: “The council has been offering support to adult occupants in this privately rented property who were considered vulnerable.
“Yesterday, working with partner agencies, including the police, it was decided to gain entry to the property to make sure that they were safe and well.
“[We] will continue to work with both the woman and her adult son, to make sure they have the support they need.”
The woman was finally taken to Queen’s Hospital, Romford, at about 6.20pm.
She is not thought to be in a serious condition.
Her son was taken to King George Hospital, Goodmayes, for checks.
A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “People should try and avoid storing large amounts of clothes, papers and other materials, as it increases the chances of having a fire and intensifies the spread of fire if one does occur.”
The road outside the flat was closed for about half an hour as the scene was cleared.
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