1,500 people treated by paramedics in queue for Queen’s lying-in-state

Total of 174 people hospitalised during official mourning event

Andy Gregory
Tuesday 20 September 2022 11:40 BST
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More than 250,000 people queued for Queen Elizabeth II’s lying-in-state, Michelle Donelan says

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Paramedics treated more than 1,500 people in the queue to view Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin as she lay in state in Westminster Hall.

A quarter of a million people are believed to have queued in central London to file past the late monarch’s coffin as it lay for four days in the Palace of Westminster ahead of her state funeral.

Mourners braved waiting times of up to 24 hours and “extremely cold” overnight temperatures to pay their respects to Britain’s longest-serving sovereign, with the government having warned people thinking of joining the continuously moving line that there would be few opportunities to sit down.

Hundreds of paramedics and volunteers were stationed along the official route, which stretched for nearly five miles between Westminster and Southwark Park from Wednesday evening until Monday morning.

A total of 174 people in the queue were hospitalised, with 1,502 treated by paramedics, according to the London Ambulance Service.

The majority of incidents dealt with by ambulance staff were for faints and falls, which caused head injuries, paramedics said on Friday after hundreds of people were treated in the first day of the queue.

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan told Sky News on Tuesday that approximately 250,000 people were thought to have seen the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall, but that her department – which oversaw the queue and provided live updates on waiting times – was still “crunching the numbers”.

Visiting the queue on Sunday, The Independent was told of frayed tempers, cold and fatigue among those waiting through the night, contrasting with the jovial scenes broadcast during the day.

Members of the public in the queue at Potters Fields Park, central London as the wait to see the Queen lying in state reached more than 22 hours at times (Aaron Chown/PA)
Members of the public in the queue at Potters Fields Park, central London as the wait to see the Queen lying in state reached more than 22 hours at times (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Brenda Hornsby, a 60-year-old who travelled from the Lake District with her husband, said: “We were left down by the river for an hour without moving – I saw two people collapse, I nearly collapsed. I had to sit down. Through tiredness and the cold and not moving I just started getting dizzy.”

Amber Jardine, a 45-year-old conservationist from Glasgow, added: “It’s been extremely cold but the fact the queue stopped twice for a medical incident and for them to do a rehearsal meant people were getting angry and skipping the queue. You couldn’t go to the bathroom without people getting angry.”

Officials had attempted to stop new people from joining the queue on Sunday, closing the gates to Southwark Park for six hours. However, a new line merely formed on nearby Jamaica Road full of people waiting to join the queue once it reopened.

The queue stretched for 3.5 miles at times
The queue stretched for 3.5 miles at times (PA Graphics)

An accessible queue was set up for people with disabilities and long-term illnesses, using wristbands to allocate time slots. However, it was paused at lunchtime on Friday and, after reopening briefly on Saturday, was permanently closed after hitting “full capacity”.

The management of queues for the Queen’s lying-in-state had been planned for years and was codenamed Operation Feather, and involved a huge police response. Prior to the event, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said it posed a “massive challenge”.

A man is accused of sexually assaulting two women in the queue before jumping into the River Thames in a failed bid to flee police, while two others have been charged with public order offences, including one man who told broadcasters he was going to get the Queen “out of her f***ing coffin because she’s not dead”.

The Queen died at Balmoral Castle on 8 September and was buried on Monday in the Royal Vaults at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, alongside her husband, parents and sister.

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