independent

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Woman hurt as Wexford Opera House evacuated

MINISTER'S SISTER-IN-LAW STRUCK BY FALLING WINDOW

MARIA PEPPER

THE SISTER-IN-LAW of Minister Brendan Howlin was taken to hospital on Sunday night following a freak accident that happened as Wexford Opera House was evacuated.

Mary Howlin, right, a former AIB bank official, was hit by a window which fell from the third floor of a house in High Street.

The accident happened when an opera employee staying in the house opened the window to investigate the commotion on the street caused by the evacuation.

The building was cleared when the fire alarm went off, but no fire was discovered. A WELL-KNOWN Wexford woman had a miraculous escape from serious injury after being struck by a window that fell from the third floor of a house in High Street during an evacuaction of Wexford Opera House on Sunday night.

Mary Howlin, a sister-in-law of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, was attending a dress rehearsal in the Opera House when the building was evacuated in the middle of the second act.

More than 900 people including audience members, performers, orchestra and backstage personnel piled onto the street after the fire alarm went off at around 9 p.m.

Festival director Ted Howlin and his wife Mary were outside the Opera House when a third floor window from a house on the opposite side of the street came crashing down, hitting her on the head.

The PVC window dislodged and fell after it was opened in a hurry by an opera employee staying in the High Street home of Eddie Foley and his family.

The woman heard pandemonium in the street during the evacuation and rushed to the window to see what was happening.

Shocked onlookers watched as Mrs Howlin was struck by the flying window.

The former AIB bank official sustained a gash to her head and was taken to Wexford General Hospital for treatment. She was discharged late on Sunday night.

Witnesses to the freak accident said Mrs Howlin was lucky not to have been seriously injured.

Opera management are investigating why the alarm was activated when there was no fire or smoke in the building.

'Everyone was very patient and understanding,' said an Opera Festival spokeswoman.

More than 900 people were in the building at the time, including an audience of 770 who turned up for the public dress rehearsal of 'L'Arlesiana'.

On the street, personnel were overheard telling people ' this is not a drill' as they directed the crowd to assembly points at either end of High Street.

The evacuation lasted about 40 minutes. People then returned to the Opera House to watch the rest of the interrupted production.

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