Drama students from Helston Community College were just hours from being in London’s Apollo Theatre when its ceiling collapsed.

They attended a matinee performance of the hit West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time last Thursday.

Less than six hours later the ceiling under which they had been sitting was falling on top of the audience of that evening’s performance.

Headteacher Dr Pat McGovern said he received a phone call that evening telling him to turn on the news.

He said: “My heart stopped. I knew they were in London and I was pretty certain about it being a matinee, but...”

Thankfully the students were already on the train home by the time of the incident, which took place midway through the first half of the evening performance.

They became aware of unfolding disaster via Twitter and began calling parents to reassure them of their safety.

The school also began calling all the numbers on its emergency contacts list and put out a notice on its Facebook page.

This read: “Important notice regarding the drama trip to London. All our students and staff are safe and sound and are currently travelling back from London. They were not in the Apollo Theatre when the roof collapsed.”

Dr McGovern added that the school had conducted a “very serious risk assessment” before carrying out the trip.

Year 11 pupils from Hayle Community School are understood to have been in the theatre next door to the Apollo at the time of the collapse.

They were enjoying a performance of Les Misérables at the adjacent Queens Theatre and only heard about the drama during an announcement in the interval.

The audience was asked to stay in the auditorium and not enter the foyer, as casualties were being treated there.

It is understood that pupils left the theatre through the back of the building.

The country watched in horror as pictures and video were streamed back showing the aftermath of the incident in Shaftesbury Avenue.

A large section of plaster fell from the roof, seriously injuring seven people, with a further 69 described as “walking wounded.”

Theatregoers were pictured exiting the theatre covered in thick dust that blew up from the stalls, which suffered the main impact.

Three London buses were commandeered to take the injured to hospitals in the area.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an adaptation of the book of the same name by author Mark Haddon, is one of the West End’s hottest tickets at the moment.