LONDON, UK – Five tourists and one staff member were injured and another 10 people were trapped when a lift fell 10ft inside the north tower of Tower Bridge today.
One man suffered a broken leg, at least one other a broken ankle, and others sprains and severe bruising, after the descending lift crashed to ground level. There were unconfirmed reports that a cable had snapped.
Police and ambulence crew had to release the trapped passengers from the lift.
An immediate safety inquiry into the cause of the accident was launched. A spokeswoman for the City of London Corporation, which owns and operates the 1894 bridge both as a vital transport link and a visitor attraction, said: “The incident happened when the lift to the Tower Bridge exhibition was on the way down. It did not fall from the top; it fell the last 10ft – it suddenly dropped.”
All those injured were conscious, and the 10 who escaped injury were able to walk away after being examined at the scene. The lift was less than half full; at the weekend, when the museum and exhibition on the history of the bridge attracts thousands of tourists, it would almost certainly have been carrying its 40-person capacity.
Reports of a incident at the bridge caused a full-scale alert, with police, several fire brigade units, three ambulance crews, and the hazardous area response team sent to the scene as soon as the alarm was raised, soon after 1pm. The bridge was closed, causing major traffic jams.
The bridge, in its day an ultra-modern piece of steam-powered engineering clad in gothic stone with an iron skin, to blend with the neighbouring Tower of London, is undergoing a major restoration programme of its stone and paintwork; no structural work is being carried out.
It opened as an award-winning museum and visitor attraction in 1982, while still remaining one of London’s busiest road traffic bridges, and opening several times a week for passing shipping. Visitors ascend by lifts and stairs in one tower, cross the walkways at the summit, and descend through the tower on the opposite bank.
The bridge reopened after two hours, but the exhibition remains closed.