Bell tower death prompts inspections

Published January 1, 1999

Archbishop David Crawley has ordered inspections of all church bells in the Diocese of Kootenay after a freak accident in which a parishioner was killed by a falling bell.

“Two parishes have written to say that upon checking their bells, they have found them to be in need of repair,” the archbishop said.

“The two churches are going to have work done on their bells before they’re used again,” he said. “They’re getting the appropriate person to go up and tighten bolts or whatever.” The archbishop said there should be no danger as long as the two churches don’t use the bells until then. Meanwhile, parishioners at St. Jude’s Church in the small, rural community of Greenwood, B.C., continue to mourn the death of Marie Radmore, 61.

In a written statement shortly after the accident, St. Jude’s Rev. Simon Shenstone said the accident was like a “fearful blow to the heart” for parishioners.

Mrs. Radmore was ringing the church bell before Sunday service on Oct. 18 when a piece of the wheel that rings the bell came loose. The wheel and bell came crashing down, falling about 10 metres, striking Mrs. Radmore on the head.

Parishioners rushed out of the church to her side when the ringing stopped. She regained consciousness briefly and cried out for her husband, who was not at church because he was caring for his aging parents.

Bill Radmore accompanied his wife in the ambulance to Grand Forks where she was airlifted to hospital in Kelowna. She died later that day.

Mr. Shenstone described Mrs. Radmore as a very active member of St. Jude’s congregation who will be “greatly missed.”

This isn’t the only accident involving a church bell at an Anglican church.

In November, the bell at St. Luke’s Church in Dartmouth, N.S., came crashing down in its tower.

Rev. Carolyn Tomlin said the 225-kilogram (500-pound) bell fell about 10 metres while parishioner Mitchell Crowell was ringing it.

No one was hurt. The bell hit the tower floor, which is made of reinforced concrete and steel mesh.

“Thank God that the floor was there,” Ms. Tomlin said. “I’m just glad Mitchell’s alive.”

A similar accident happened at another church Ms. Tomlin worked at five years ago near Lunenberg, N.S. Again, nobody was hurt.

She said she is unsure whether the bell at St. Luke’s will be fixed as repairs may prove too costly.

Archbishop Crawley said it’s easy to see why bells, typically hidden inside a tower, can sometimes cause accidents.

“They tend not to be looked at because they’re way up there,” he said.

Insurance companies should probably require churches across the country to inspect their bells, he said.


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