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Tuesday, March 3, 1998 Published at 15:56 GMT


Plaster of Palace
image: [ Buckingham Palace: the plaster broke off from the ballroom ceiling ]
Buckingham Palace: the plaster broke off from the ballroom ceiling

A man was hurt when a large plaster moulding fell from Buckingham Palace's ballroom ceiling as the Queen presented honours at an investiture.

Nick Howell, 28, from Wimbledon, was taken to hospital with a cut to his head, which needed six stitches.

His brother, who was sitting next to him, escaped injury but suffered from shock.

Nick Howell's father, Keith, and brother, Chris, describe the incident (1' 14")
They had both been invited to the ceremony to watch their father Keith receive the OBE.

Mr Howell said: "I have absolutely no idea what hit me, something came down from the sky. It was a huge shock, not what you expect to happen."

Buckingham Palace said checks were now being carried out after the heavy, gilded plaster moulding crashed to the floor.

It was part of the heavy coving around the side of the room, near the back of the ballroom and nearly 100ft from the Queen when it fell.

She looked up when the accident happened, but after a momentary pause, continued with the ceremony.

The BBC's court correspondent Jenny Bond: "lots of blood" (2'27")
Palace officials and first-aiders rushed to help Mr Howell and carried him from the ballroom. The military band, on duty for the investiture, played on.

Ballroom's role

The ballroom is used for 22 investitures each year.

At each of them, about 150 people are presented with their awards, watched by members of their families.

Once a year, it plays an important role when a reception is held for diplomats, when 1,200 guests from countries throughout the world assemble.

Behind the position where the Queen stands for the investitures are two "Chairs of Estate", used for the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902.

It is not the first time that guests have been put in unexpected peril during a Palace event hosted by the Queen.

In July 1996 three guests at a royal garden party were taken to hospital after being struck by lightning as they stood under trees during a storm.


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