A WOMAN died yesterday after being hit by flying debris at the

demolition of two 22-storey blocks of flats in Glasgow's Gorbals. Three

other people, one a policeman, were slightly injured among the 2000


The dead woman, who at first was thought to have had a heart attack,

was later named as Mrs Helen Tinney, 61, of nearby Hutchesontown Court.

She died in the Victoria Infirmary soon after being admitted. She was

married with four children.

Police said she had been standing on a grassy area in Cumberland

Street, near the Cumberland Arms, with her sister waiting for the

demolition to take place. She was in an area designated as safe for the


The injured were Ms Theresa Riley, 36, of Kintillo Drive,

Scotstounhill, who was treated for a head injury; Mr James Cowan, 61, of

Stanmore Road, Mount Florida, who made his own way to hospital and

received treatment for a cut to his thigh, and Constable Andrew Hynds,

based at London Road police station, who continued on duty despite a

head injury. Ms Riley and Mr Cowan were standing in the same area as the

dead woman.

Another casualty was a 21-year-old pregnant woman, Ms Tracey McDonald,

of Stirling Fauld Place, Kingston, who fainted at the explosion. An

ambulance took her to hospital but she was released without treatment.

Police and officials of the Health and Safety Executive, Glasgow

District Council and the demolition company, Ladkarn-Wreckers,

immediately began an on-the-spot investigation into how persons came to

be injured.

All the injured had been standing outside a safety exclusion zone, the

boundaries of which followed various streets in the heavily populated

area and was on average about 120 metres from the buildings being


About 100 residents had been temporarily evacuated to the nearby

Blackfriars School while the demolition went ahead.

It had promised to be Glasgow's greatest ever free spectacle and it

brought the sun-filled streets of the Gorbals to a standstill for an

incredible 20 seconds.

It was billed as the biggest controlled explosion ever to take place

in Britain -- some experts said Europe -- since the war, and thousands

of city-dwellers made a pilgrimage to watch the destruction happen.

It was meant to be a successful operation to erase from the skyline

the two hideous and hated Sir Basil Spence designed 22-storey blocks of

flats using two and a half tons of gelignite.

A police spokesman said last night a report on the woman's death would

go to the procurator-fiscal. He said the inquiry would be into the death

''and anything else which had a bearing on her death''.

Mr Mike Higginbotham, a director of Ladkarn-Wreckers, said: ''We are

very, very sad about what has happened, but we don't actually know any


He added: ''The whole idea of this kind of explosive demolition is

that it is safe and easy. We can't comment because we really don't know

the circumstances.''

The Glasgow Central MP, Mr Mike Watson, inspected the scene last night

and immediately called for a comprehensive inquiry ''to ensure that such

a tragedy does not happen again at the demolition of a tower block''.

He added: ''There seems to be little doubt that the woman was struck

by flying debris. Something has gone seriously wrong with the explosion.

I saw debris was scattered over quite a wide area with large chunks of

concrete visible in several gardens some distance from the site and a

number of windows broken.''

Local councillor James Mutter, who was a friend of the dead woman,

said he was some 140 metres away from those who were injured and could

see debris going up in the air.

''It seemed to be a well organised event but I was always concerned

about a building of this size being demolished because it is the first

of its type.''

Before it was known that there had been casualties, a news conference

had been taken by Mr Ian Taylor, of Glasgow District Council's building

control department, who explained that the demolition had not been the

complete success they had been looking for. Because of the situation

others, including representatives of the contractors, were still at the


When the roar of 6000 separate explosions -- it came over as seven or

eight very loud bangs -- died away, and the dust, like ash erupting from

a volcano, cleared there was not the heap of rubble expected by the

demolishers. Two sections of one block remained in large pieces and one

section sat uncomfortably at a height of about three storeys above the


Mr Taylor said that while the smaller block at Queen Elizabeth Square

had come down as planned, the larger block was left with two mounds of

huge pieces of the building intact. The larger section, he said, was

''hanging rather precariously'' over a shopping centre, Cumberland

Arcade. Rubble had also fallen on an old bank building.

Mr Taylor said an assessment of the situation was being carried out,

which would lead them to decide which parts could be taken down by

mechanical means and how the remains of the block could be made safe to

allow tenants back into their homes in adjacent flats.

He was also questioned then about the two hitches in the demolition.

The blast was originally set for 12 noon. It was then put back to 1pm.

Later it was retimed for 2pm with the statement that if this did not

happen the blast would be rescheduled for today. The explosion took

place at 2.14.

Mr Taylor said the delays had been for technical reasons because of

misreadings due to electrical interference caused by copper piping in

the building.

He said of the demolition: ''It should have been a total success. We

will have to determine the reasons why it has not been a success.''

He added that the demolition contractors had the job of carrying out

the work and they were responsible for what happened and making good any


He said it had been confirmed that all the explosive charges had


Meetings to plan the ''blowdown'' had been going on for several months

to ensure that everything went right on the big day. The #873,000

contract to bring down the two blocks was supervised by the city's

building control department and involved more than 200 people from 20

different organisations within and outwith the council.

Opinion was that controlled demolition was considerably safer and less

expensive than traditional ''deconstruction'', which would have cost


Mr Richard Gibb, the council's assistant director of building control,

who was co-ordinating the exercise, said he did not know the exact

circumstances of the personal injuries, but he expressed regret on

behalf of the council.

He understood that those hit by flying debris had been standing,

watching the demolition, at the corner of Cumberland Street and Hallside

Place, at the south-west corner of the exclusion zone.

The safety zone had been set at 120 metres from the demolition work, a

distance of twice the height of the buildings, as prescribed by the

Health and Safety Executive. Mr Gibb said not all of the buildings had

come down as far as had been hoped, while others had fallen in a way

that was not predicted.

Limited damage had been caused to surrounding property, most notably a

disused bank, while a possible risk remained to a block of shops off Old

Rutherglen Road.

Last night a two-metre high fence was being erected to keep the site

secure and staff from a private security firm were patrolling the area.

The buildings being demolished were a mixture of precast,

pre-stressed, and panelled concrete. Charges had been placed both on the

inside and on the outside of the buildings and Mr Gibb said he believed

all the charges had successfully detonated.

Three other council blocks have been demolished by explosives in

recent months; at Roystonhill, Germiston, and Castlemilk.

All three were carried out by a company called Controlled Demolition,

and hailed as complete successes, with damage limited to only one broken

window in neighbouring property.

That company had tendered for yesterday's job but its bid was not the

cheapest. The council was obliged, under local government legislation,

to accept the cheapest offer considered safe.

The successful bid was made by a consortium involving Wreckers, which

has an international record, and English-based Ladkarn.

Under the terms of the contract the firms were obliged to provide #10m

of insurance for property and any third party damages and they will be

responsible for claims if liability can be established.

A controlled explosion is regarded by the HSE as the safest method of

removing multi-storey blocks. An alternative, manual dismantling,

carries more risk for workers involved.

The HSE was informed of yesterday's incident and an investigation is

under way. A fatal accident inquiry is likely to be held into the death

of Mrs Tinney if it is proved that she was hit by debris.

Police spokesman Superintendent Eric Webb, based at Gorbals, said he

understood Mrs Tinney had been hit by debris from the explosion.

Several windows at the police station were broken by the blast, which

had not been predicted.

Almost 100 district council residents, who had been moved from their

homes yesterday before the explosion, were allowed home last night. A

further 17, from seven households nearest to the site, were evacuated

last Tuesday and were not due to return until later this week. This may

now be delayed.

No other council buildings are due for demolition by explosion in the

near future.

A police spokesman confirmed last night that an incident had occurred

during a test explosion at the site 11 days ago.

He said:' 'It would appear that there was a test explosion at about

11am on September 2 and, as a result, a passing car in Commercial Road

was struck by some masonry. The offside rear passenger door was damaged

but no-one was injured.''