There has been no remorse, no goodwill. The survivors were thrown to legal sharks

King's Cross fire: Burns victim is awarded a record pounds 650,000 but directs bitter attack on London Transport
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The Independent Online
A musician whose career was blighted by injuries suffered in the 1987 King's Cross fire was awarded pounds 650,000 agreed damages at the High Court yesterday.

Ron Lipsius, who has undergone 18 operations to repair his burnt hands, said he was disappointed with the settlement - he had claimed more than pounds 1m - and he launched a bitter attack on London Transport.

"I hate them," he said. "I think they are a wicked organisation. Their cumulative incompetence caused hell on earth on November 18 1987. They've shown no remorse. They have no goodwill. People were maimed and killed, and they threw the survivors to the legal sharks."

The award is the highest so far out of more than 80 claims, although three are still outstanding. It reflects Mrs Lipsius's loss of future earnings from an anticipated career writing advertising jingles.

Mr Lipsius, 39, of Hammersmith, west London, earned a first-class music degree from New York City, where he was born, and he had hoped to spend his life in the music business, playing guitar and keyboards. Among witnesses who would have testified to his skill, had the case gone ahead, was Brian May, lead guitarist with the pop group Queen.

On the night of the blaze, Mr Lipsius was travelling with a friend's mother, who died. His hands were severely damaged when he lifted them to protect his face as a fireball swept through the underground station ticket hall, where many of the 31 who died were overcome by flames and smoke.

As a regular user of the station, he was able to find a way out of the worst of the blaze before being rescued by firemen.

During his recovery at University College Hospital, London, Mr Lipsius endured a number of extremely painful operations which could only be carried out without anaesthetic. They involved cutting the sides of his fingers to remove dead tissue.

Such was the resulting pain that for eight weeks he was prescribed heroin. For years afterwards he required strong painkillers before daily physiotherapy sessions.

The court was told that he is still suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression, and his hands bleed when he tries to play the guitar.

His counsel, Colin Mackay QC, said the "skilful and necessarily aggressive" treatment Mr Lipsius was given enabled him to use his hands to a certain degree, but they had not been restored enough to enable him to play his guitar.

"His hope, before the fire, was not that he was going to be the next Eric Clapton," said Mr Mackay. "But that he would enter the world of jingles.

"What my client went through was like a vision of hell . . . He left his companion and felt guilty he had not been able to save her. Mr Lipsius survived to be described as the worst of the King's Cross victims in terms of burns.

"He has hands that he can use for many of the purposes of life but the supreme tragedy is he wanted more than that. He wanted a career in music.

"He simply cannot play the guitar. He has tried, and on one occasion his hands started to bleed. The skin of his hands is simply too delicate, his joints simply too imperfect."

Patrick Allen, Mr Lipsius's solicitor, said Professor Gus McGrouther, Mr Lipsius's surgeon, said 10 more operations were necessary, something London Transport contested.

Mr Justice Butterfield said Mr Lipsius had demonstrated great bravery but that no amount of money could compensate him for the devastating injuries and the psychological consequences of the fire.

"His recovery, partial and incomplete as it is, is quite plainly a tribute to the skill of the doctors who treated him, the support of his family and, above all, the dogged determination of Mr Lipsius himself."

After the hearing, Mr Lipsius said: "I am disappointed. I was hoping for a lot more, but it's a risky business and you just have to settle for less or go through an incredible amount of stress - and maybe get less."

He said the money would be used to build a recording studio so he could continue trying to work as a musician.

London Transport said it was "pleased" the case had been settled and it expressed its sympathy for all the victims and their families.

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