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Two killed as balcony collapses

Two men died when balcony railings gave way as they carried a sofa into a home in the capital, Metropolitan Police said tonight.

A cordon remains in place at Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge this evening after two people, believed to be removal men, died while they were carrying furniture into the premises.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second man was taken to a central London hospital in a critical condition where he later died. Both men are believed to be of Polish origin, Met Police said.

A police spokesman said: "At this early stage it is believed that a number of sofas were being delivered to the address - which was under renovation - prior to the railings on the balcony giving way.

"An investigation is under way to establish the full circumstances of the incident in close partnership with the Health and Safety Executive and the local authority."

At least six others were injured in the incident shortly before 10am. All eight are believed to be removal men.

Forensic officers have spent the day examining the scene, while a cordon was placed at the front of the five-storey terrace.

Greg Hands, Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, said: "Believe balcony broke when the removal men were moving a sofa out and the combined weight might have broken it. Casualties were removal staff. My thoughts are with their families."

Raj Ramanoop, who lives in the square, said he was alerted by a friend in a nearby embassy who initially told him scaffolding had come down.

Mr Ramanoop said: "By the time I got back here, the police had cordoned off the whole street. I heard it was a sofa or furniture. We don't know whether it was coming in or going out because you don't look at these things."

A woman saw two victims lying prone in the road on her way back from the hairdresser, her son said. Vera Skeete said his mother Theresa Roberts was left in shock by what she saw at around 10.30am.

Mr Skeete said: "Mum was walking past and she saw them lying on the floor. They were not even covered up. It gave her a heart attack."

Cadogan Square is full of residential property, with many of the buildings divided into flats. The first-floor balcony is believed to have been connected to property number 37 before the iron railing crashed 30ft to the ground.

A number of long ropes were hanging from the balcony to the ground where plastic sheets were gathered.

A police tent was erected on the pavement and the street, where the average property is worth £3.2 million, has been closed to the public.

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said emergency services were called to Cadogan Square at 9.58am. He said : " We treated eight people. Every effort was made to resuscitate a patient. Sadly, a man died at the scene.

"Six patients were treated for minor injuries but did not go to hospital." A seventh person was taken to St Mary's Hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Richard Scrivener, from London Fire Brigade, said they secured parts of the iron balcony that had broken away in the fall.

"Crews assisted London Ambulance Service to provide first aid to those injured in the fall as well as to a number of onlookers who were suffering from shock."

Neighbour Abel Damoussi said there was lots of building work in the square and said he had seen ropes hanging from the balcony.

He added that he heard an "unusual commotion" in the usually peaceful square. "There was a lot of noise, which we don't usually have that early in the morning," he said. "It was only when I came out of the building and found Cadogan Square cordoned off that I realised something had happened. "

Sinclair Johnston, an engineer who has worked on another property in the square, said decorative railings such as the one which collapsed cannot be depended on to support weight.

Speaking at the scene, he said: "These sort of constructions are always very fragile and the iron railings can rust and the stone can become fragile and break up so you never really know how strong they are.

"It's OK in an ordinary way but if you put any pressure on them, if you lean on them, there's no way of knowing - you can't depend on them.

"It's something that engineers are very aware of. The ironwork is incredibly heavy so if it falls off, it can be a disaster.

"The buildings were built in around 1890 and I should think the railings are original or have been there for a very long time."

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed it was investigating the incident and inspectors were at the scene.

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