Crane at museum site injures worker

A workman was rushed to hospital from Newcastle's flagship £26m museum project yesterday after a crane ballast fell on him.

The Hancock Museum

A workman was rushed to hospital from Newcastle's flagship £26m museum project yesterday after a crane ballast fell on him. The 63-year-old was at the Hancock Museum, on the Great North Road, when the heavy weight, used to balance the crane, toppled onto him.

As colleagues looked on, the man, from the Stockport area, suffered two broken legs but luckily was not more seriously injured in the accident, which happened at about 1pm.

Last night he was recovering at the city's General Hospital as investigators from the Health and Safety Executive arrived at the scene.

The 123-year-old Hancock is currently closed for a massive revamp that will see it reopen in 2009 as The Great North Museum, with new galleries, a purpose-built education suite, a special exhibitions gallery and public library.

The section of Claremont Road beneath the building site was closed to traffic for the whole weekend as Durham contractors Kier Northern stepped up work.

Details on how the accident happened and how far the ballast fell were not clear last night, but workmen were preparing to remove one of the two cranes on the site, which is next to Newcastle University's Claremont Tower building. A spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said inspectors had launched a full investigation.

The Great North Museum will incorporate collections from the Hancock, the University of Newcastle's Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum of Greek Art and Archaeology and the Hatton Gallery.

Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council have each pledged £3m to the project, it has £9m Heritage Lottery funding and a further £7m from One NorthEast and the European Regional Development Fund.

Alec Coles, director of Tyne and Wear Museums, said last night: "The site is in the hands of the building contractors at the moment and they are responsible for everything that takes place on site.

"Obviously we're upset to hear about the accident. Our thoughts are with the man involved who we hope recovers rapidly."

Mick Warwicker, head of communications at Newcastle University, said: "We were shocked to hear of this awful accident and our thoughts are with the injured man and his family."

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