7/7 victim saved by 'favourite seat'

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The Independent Online

A scientist only survived the 7/7 attacks because he was sitting in his "favourite" seat on one of the Tube trains targeted by suicide bombers, an inquest heard today.

Professor Philip Patsalos lost a leg in the blast on the Piccadilly Line service targeted by Jermaine Lindsay, 19, between King's Cross and Russell Square stations in London on July 7 2005.

But he said he would have been killed if he had opted for his second favourite seat, which was just inches from where the teenage terrorist detonated his device.

Prof Patsalos also described how a member of the emergency services passed by him in the bombed carriage, apparently thinking he was dead because he was surrounded by motionless bodies.

On the morning of the bombings, he had a "very modest" lie-in before setting off for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in central London, the inquests for the 52 victims of the attacks heard.

As usual he got on the first carriage of the Piccadilly Line train at Southgate Tube station and chose his favourite seat, number 90 on a plan used by the inquest team.

Prof Patsalos, an epilepsy specialist at University College London's institute of neurology, said he was "fortunate" to end up in his first choice seat that day.

"If I was seated on seat 90, I was about 3ft away from the bomber," he told the hearing.

"If I sat on my second favourite seat, I would have been 3cm from the bomber and I wouldn't be here today."

The scientist thought about leaving the train when it was delayed at Arnos Grove station but concluded it was better to stay on.

The service had just left King's Cross station when he felt a sudden shock and a surge of electricity going through his body.

He told the inquests: "I was shaking, I remember seeing my brain, my skeleton. I could see peculiar things.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'when is this going to finish?' It finished soon afterwards - it probably only lasted a few seconds, but it seemed like eternity."

Prof Patsalos recalled hearing screams and cries from the other passengers and seeing a young man jumping from seat to seat "like a chimpanzee" to get out of the train.

"I couldn't actually move, I could not see what had happened to me," he said.

"I felt down with my left hand my left leg, which is actually the leg that was particularly damaged as it was closest to the bomb.

"It was rather mushy and I thought, 'that's not good', and I started thinking to myself, 'I've got to stay alive, I'm going to die here'.

"And as time went on I thought, 'OK, I must survive, I must not die and if I need to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, so be it'."

He tried not to panic to avoid putting himself under further stress.

"I stayed calm and breathed in as slowly as necessary. My number one priority, as I could not do anything for anybody else, was to stay alive," he said.

Eventually a member of the emergency services appeared in the train, but he at first ignored the academic.

Prof Patsalos said: "He had a torch and he went over to my right and disappeared. I thought, 'why hasn't he stopped to say something to me?'

"Clearly the reason was because I was surrounded by motionless bodies, I would assume, and he thought I was also dead."

The scientist was carried out of the train on a stretcher to Russell Square station and taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

He lost his left leg but his right leg, which was also badly injured, was saved by surgeons.

Prof Patsalos said he did not actively tell people that he now has a prosthetic limb, and some colleagues assumed he just had a knee or hip problem.

"I think I've dealt with it by being in denial in a way," he said.

"I've tried very hard to move forward and be positive, and try to fit into normal life and my environment, and I think I've coped very well."

He added: "How I survived, I don't know. Somebody saved me... I'm grateful."