7/7 Inquest: 'There was a flash, the carriage expanded and I was blown off my feet...'

July 7 inquest hears remarkable account from Tube passenger standing next to bomber as he pulled his detonation cord
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The Independent Online

AMID THE bloodshed and carnage, it was the tiny mundane details that proved so striking. One passenger was busy listening to his iPod. Another was reading a text. A third was scouring a newspaper, a fourth was daydreaming.

As each of the survivors of London's worst terrorist attack recounted the events of that fateful day yesterday, they described a routine that would be only too familiar to the average commuter right up to the daily hunt for a seat as they boarded the Circle Line train on 7 July 2005.Daniel Biddle was running late and thought little of the Asian man who got on and sat just feet away. Within moments he would detonate a bomb that would blow Mr Biddle out of the carriage and leave him fighting for his life, half-blinded and a double amputee.

Yesterday the inquest into the 52 commuters who perished turned its attention to those lost when Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, set off a bomb on a London Underground train at Edgware Road, killing six and injuring many more. In the Royal Courts of Justice, lawyers representing families and emergency services took witnesses through the minutiae of seating plans, lighting arrangements and timings.

But peppered amid the technical detail were words that brought home the horror of that day. Commuter Bill Mann said: "There were the high-pitched screams and underneath that the more scary screams of people going through a tremendous amount of pain."



Mr Biddle, the most seriously injured survivor, explained how he had let his first train pass because it was crowded.

He then missed his stop at Baker Street because he was engrossed in sending a text message. "People were getting on and off. I didn't really pay particular attention to anybody. I saw a young Asian guy get on at King's Cross and sort of walk along the carriage and sit down, but I didn't really think anything of it." In calm, measured tones he told the inquest how Khan looked up briefly at him before jerking a white cord: "There was a big white flash, the kind of noise you get when you tune a radio in. It felt like the carriage I was in expanded at a fast rate and then contracted quickly. And with that it blew me off my feet and through the carriage doors into the tunnel."

Mr Biddle continued: "Before he set the device off he looked up and along the carriage and just looked down. He didn't say anything or shout anything I remember hearing. He got his head down, moved his arm and the next thing I am outside the train."

The 31-year-old construction manager, who lost both legs, his left eye and spleen, regained consciousness on the tracks, covered in debris. He came round to find the train was still moving, a piece of door or train panel holding him down by the legs. "I had quite a lot of metal on top of me. It was very dark and dusty. My first thought was, 'Jesus Christ, the doors have given and I have fallen out of the train.' It was when I tried to move and I couldn't, and as the dust and smoke settled and the noises started, that I realised something bad had happened. There was a bluish flame on my arms and hands. It went out on its own, like a flash flame."

Mr Biddle then realised something was wedged uncomfortably behind him. He said: "I repositioned my shoulders and reached behind me and pulled out a leg and foot." Through the dark and dust, he could see several bodies, one just two feet away. "I was terrified, seeing what I had seen, and thought I was going to die. So I was screaming just as loud as I could to get help."

Mr Biddle spent several weeks in a coma as doctors fought to save him. After he completed his evidence yesterday, Coroner Lady Justice Hallett said: "You have suffered so much and your survival is inspirational. So I hope that we have not added to any great extent by asking you to give evidence."

Fellow passenger Adrian Heili, who helped to save Mr Biddle's life, said choosing who to treat was the "hardest" decision of his life. With only a rudimentary first aid kit, Mr Heili, who trained as a medic with the Austrian Army, said he clambered under the train and through a "thick liquid" - which he later recognised to be blood - to reach the severely injured man.

He applied tourniquets made from his belt and shirt to Mr Biddle. He was later provided with an extremely basic medical kit from the driver's cab. After Mr Biddle was taken away, Mr Heili returned to the wrecked carriage to help other survivors and was in the last group to leave the train two hours later.

Lady Justice Hallet told him: "You were, cool, calm, collected and courageous. I can't believe that the brave Mr Biddle would have survived his horrific injuries but for your intervention."The inquest also heard from the famlies of those who did not survive that day. Graham Foulkes struggled to contain his grief as he spoke of his 22-year-old son: "I couldn't say what the future would have been for David. Who could? But I do know that he would have made us proud and happy parents. David is missed beyond words by all who knew him."