Worker killed in Swains Lane explosion was grandfather who ‘lived for his family’
Stephen Hampton was killed as he worked on a new development of shops and flats in Highgate
Flowers for Stephen Hampton in Highgate
A CONSTRUCTION worker killed in an explosion at a former petrol station was a much-loved grandfather, whose death has left his family devastated. Stephen Hampton, who was in his mid-50s, died after a blast in Swains Lane that could be heard across Highgate and parts of Hampstead Heath on Thursday afternoon.
He was rushed to the Royal London Hospital but died from his injuries.
Mr Hampton, known as Steve, had been commuting from the home he shared with his wife in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. “My world is broken, my heart is broken,” a relative said. Another added online that Mr Hampton was “a hard-working man who lived for his family”.
Mr Hampton had been part of a team working on the redevelopment of a parade which, after a 10-year planning battle, is due to be transformed into a new block of flats and shops. Work has now been halted on the site. In a desperate bid to save Mr Hampton, paramedics, including members of an air ambulance unit, were scrambled to the site in Swains Lane.
The rescue helicopter landed on Parliament Hill Fields.
The scene in Swains Lane last Thursday afternoon
The explosion rocked houses nearby, and was heard across Hampstead Heath. Professional pianist Tessa Uys, who lives directly opposite the site, said: “It made my floorboards completely vibrate. It was terribly loud – a huge, huge explosion.”
Milo Landin, who lives a street away in St Albans Road, said he felt his front door shake, windows rattle and items fell off shelves. He added: “I was just leaving my house when I heard an absolutely massive bang. I could feel the pressure on my ears.”
Waiters working at the Al Parco and Bistro Laz restaurants opposite rushed out to see if they could help. Ozan Yelken said: “I was taking some plates to a table when it happened. Every piece of china and cutlery we had shook. At first I thought it must be a wall crashing on to the road – every car alarm in the street went off. We rushed out to see what had happened and I saw people running inside the site to see if they could help.”
Work had started at the turn of the year to take down the 1930s-built, single-storey parade, once home to a popular independent businesses. As well as taking down the buildings and preparing the land for construction, demolition teams were working to decontaminate the site and remove long-defunct petrol tanks.
Highgate councillor and Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry said: “It’s absolutely shocking. I went down there last weekend and I managed to get on the site. There was a big tank that used to store petrol.”
Mr Hampton’s employers, PJL Plant Hire, said in a statement: “Paul and Jo Harris [PJL directors] have asked that Stephen’s wife Lorraine, his family and his work colleagues’ privacy is respected during this very sad time.”