Lights out

THE show must go on – that was the message for the people of St Neots after one of the town s Christmas lights came crashing to the ground, knocking unconscious a young woman pushing a pram. What were supposed to have been the best Christmas lights in th

THE show must go on - that was the message for the people of St Neots after one of the town's Christmas lights came crashing to the ground, knocking unconscious a young woman pushing a pram.

What were supposed to have been "the best Christmas lights in the district" are now in storage after one of the metal structures fell onto the high street, ripping out bits of masonry from a building.

The woman, understood to be a Russian aged 30, was knocked unconscious and fell to the ground when she was hit by a brick last Thursday morning.

Eye witnesses said she had been pushing a pram carrying a friend's child, and it was a 'miracle' that the boy escaped unhurt.

The woman was taken unconscious to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, with head and shoulder injuries where she spent four days before being discharged on Monday.

It is believed the woman, and the mother of the child, are planning to take legal action.

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Investigations have also been launched by the Health and Safety Executive

The accident took place the day before the planned big switch-on of the Christmas lights. Cockney singing duo, Chas and Dave, had been lined up to push the button during a series of events that had to be cancelled by St Neots Town Council, which is responsible for the lights.

The decoration that fell to the ground was one of several large metal frames erected across the town's High Street. It had been placed across the road between the National and Provincial Building Society and the solicitors Leeds Day.

The structure also hit a passing car, which had just turned into the High Street from South Street. The driver, also a woman in her 30s, was said to be "in a terrible state".

An eye witness told The Hunts Post: "She panicked because she was trapped in her car and then when she was able to get out on the passenger side, she saw the woman lying on the ground and assumed she had hit her."

Debbie Gardiner manager of The Edinburgh Wool Shop, next to where the accident happened, added: "Staff went out and covered the injured woman with travel rugs and also told people not to move her.

"People wanted to put something under her head but they said she must be left as she was until the ambulance arrived.

"From what I gather, she was more injured by hitting the ground than by the masonry that hit her.

"We brought the woman driver into the shop and we made her the usual hot, sweet tea. She was very shocked. She had come round the corner from South Street, you can't see what is going on in the High Street from there and lights had suddenly come down on her car.

"She had a Peugeot with sliding doors so she couldn't get out because the frame stopped them opening. She managed to get out of the passenger side and the first thing she saw was the woman lying on the pavement."

The High Street was closed for the rest of the day and all the structures across the road were taken down.

Traders had been anticipating one of the busiest days of the year on Friday, but with the switch on cancelled, the crowds were not present and without any ceremony, the town's Christmas tree was illuminated in the Market Square.

Another set of lights due to go on over the town's bridge stayed dark because of an electrical fault.

The town's deputy mayor, Councillor Fiona Birks said she hoped the accident would not have a negative impact on St Neots.

"We hope the lady makes a full recovery. The money spent on the lights is not a waste. It is a good investment for the town.

"This was an unfortunate accident that no one wanted to happen but the two things are not connected.

"The Christmas lights have always been a big feature for the town and the switching on ceremony helps local retailers.

"We don't want people to have a negative view of St Neots. We need to move forward. The show has to go on. We want people to shop here. I have done all my Christmas shopping in St Neots."

The town is continuing with other plans for the Christmas season including an ice-skating rink in The Market Square on Sunday, December 16 and a children's fair in the square at weekends up until Christmas.

As reported by The Hunts Post, St Neots Town Council agreed to spend £151,000 over five years leasing the lights from a company called Millennium Quest, based in Kent.

Millennium Quest had also been asked to put up the lights.

Eric Stokes, managing director of Millennium Quest told The Hunts Post: "I wish the injured lady a speedy recovery."

He added that he could not comment pending the investigation but it should not be assumed that Millennium Quest was to blame. "We put the lights on the building and the building came down."

Mr Stokes said his company had been in business for 11 years, supplying and fitting lights across the country.

Town clerk, Philip Devonald added: "They would have been the best lights in the region, if they hadn't been put up the way they were."

He said two investigations were being carried out as to what happened - an internal investigation and also one by the council's insurers. A structural engineer has been appointed to examine the fittings.

It is not yet clear whose insurers will stand the liability in the event of the council being sued.

Mr Devonald added that the lights were a waste of money: "If we can't use them in the High Street, we will put them somewhere else.