Woman killed by falling tree branch in Kew Gardens as heavy wind and rain sweeps across Britain

Commuters hit by flooding on railways and roads, with warnings of more floods to come

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The Independent Online

A woman has been killed after being hit by a falling tree branch at Kew Gardens during heavy rain yesterday.

The woman, a New Zealander in her 30s, who has lived in London for several years, was hit on the head by the falling branch at around 2pm yesterday. She was visiting the gardens with friends when tragedy struck.

The New Zealand foreign affairs ministry has confirmed that the she was a New Zealander living in London.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene after visitors and paramedics were unable resuscitate her.

The victim's boyfriend is believed to be on route back to London from a trip to Barcelona, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

The Botanical Gardens at Kew were closed today because of severe weather warnings, and an investigation has begun into how the branch, believed to be around 12 inches in diameter, came down in heavy rain.

It is not yet clear whether or not the accident will be referred to the Health and Safety Executive for investigation.

Gary Baker, 51, who witnessed the incident, told the Evening Standard that he heard what sounded like “shotgun fire” when the branch hit the path.

He said: “We were walking back to the car park towards the Brentford Gate when I heard what sounded like the crackle of gunshot. I turned round and saw something crash down directly in front of me, about 50 metres away.

“I ran directly towards it and there was a man running along the footpath shouting ‘call an ambulance’. I was trying to get my phone out of my pocket when I saw something on the ground. It turned out to be the person.

“A girl in her party had got through to the ambulance on her phone so I went to help her. She looked in a bad way. She was lying there face down. There was blood coming out of her mouth and I couldn’t find a pulse.“

A Kew Gardens spokesman today told the BBC: “The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew confirms a tragic accident at Kew Gardens when a falling tree branch resulted in a fatality.

“We cannot comment further at this stage but our deepest sympathy is with family and friends.”

The death came as high winds and heavy rain swept across the country.

Commuters have been hit by the flooding on railways and roads, with warnings of more floods to come.

Heavy rain overnight in the South West led to the flooding of around 15 properties in Somerset and disruption to rail services between Exeter and Bristol, while flooding was delaying trains between Chester and north Wales.

The Highways Agency also said surface water flooding was causing delays on the A49 near Ludlow, Shropshire.

The Met Office is forecasting that up to 100mm (more than three inches) of rain could fall over parts of northern England, the Midlands and north and east Wales over the next 24 hours, with some areas receiving more than the average for the whole month of September.

This morning there were 20 flood warnings for rivers in place in the South West, North East and Midlands regions, and the Environment Agency is also warning of surface water flooding. There are almost 100 less serious flood alerts in place.

The Met Office is also warning of high winds across south-east England today, with gusts of up to 60mph inland and 70mph along the coast, with similar wind speeds in north-east England and eastern Scotland later tonight and tomorrow.

Paul Mott, senior meteorologist at MeteoGroup, warned: “There is going to be a big change in the weather from what we have had recently.”

The past few weeks had offered a welcome break from the rain and wind which dogged much of July and August. Mr Mott said: “Some parts of the country have enjoyed some very dry and warm days during September, with barely a couple of inches of rainfall.

“But, over the next 36 hours, quite a few areas are looking at 30 to 40mm of rain, with as much as 50 to 60mm locally. There is likely to be some localised flooding, and gusts of up to 60mph in parts of Scotland, which is enough to pull up the odd tree.”