'Courageous' doctor thanked for comforting 7/7 victims

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The Independent Online

A doctor spoke today of her distress at being unable to do more to help dying victims of the 7/7 attacks.

Gerardine Quaghebeur said she was "completely on her own" without any first aid supplies and could only offer comfort to those horrifically injured in the 2005 Aldgate bombing.

She also described her anger at fellow passengers who stopped to take pictures of the stricken Tube carriage where suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer had detonated his device.

The coroner hearing the inquests for the 52 victims of the atrocities said Dr Quaghebeur underestimated the importance of what she did in providing assistance "with great courage, determination and humanity".

And the father of Carrie Taylor, 24, who died in the Aldgate blast, thanked the doctor for staying with his daughter so she was not alone in her final moments.

Dr Quaghebeur, 50, a consultant neuroradiologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, was travelling to her second job in London on the morning of July 7 2005 when she became caught up in the attacks.

She ended up sitting around 15ft from Tanweer on an eastbound Circle Line service after allowing an earlier train to pass because it was too crowded.

The doctor told the inquests that the train had just left Liverpool Street station when there was an explosion like a "whoosh" that made her hair stand on end.

After some time, people from the other carriages started to leave the train and walk down the tracks to the safety of Aldgate station.

Dr Quaghebeur was about to join them when she looked to her right and for the first time saw the dead and dying passengers in her carriage.

One of the injured, professional dancer Crystal Main, looked at her and said, "You can't be leaving us - you're not going to leave us?"

The doctor replied, "No, no, I'll stay", and asked if she could remain on the train.

Miss Taylor, a finance officer at the Royal Society of Arts from Billericay, Essex, was making involuntary movements and appeared to have spinal and head injuries, the hearing was told.

Dr Quaghebeur cradled the young woman in her arms to comfort her for about an hour.

The emergency services did not arrive to help for some time, but in the meantime other passengers continued their evacuation from the train.

She said: "I could see people walking down the platform, obviously having come off the rest of the train and walking up to the station. They all walked past in a row and nobody came.

"Well, that's not true. A couple of people came to take pictures, which I got really annoyed about and I got cross. I think a policeman said they would stop (them) doing that."

Dr Quaghebeur told the inquests she did not feel she achieved anything on the wrecked train.

"I am a doctor, but really I was no more professional - what can you do in a situation like that?" she said.

"You can't do anything, you're completely on your own, you have no first aid to give, you have no airway to give.

"You have absolutely nothing to give other than to maybe comfort the people that are alive."

Miss Taylor's father John asked her why she stayed on the train.

She replied: "It was to comfort her and it was to comfort some of the other people in the carriage and not leave them alone."

Mr Taylor said simply: "Thank you very much for that."

The inquests have heard that Dr Quaghebeur shouted while looking after Miss Taylor, "Get me a medic. This woman has only minutes to live if I don't get a medic".

Asked about this, she said: "I don't recall saying that, but it's quite possible I did. I did at one stage get a bit distressed.

"It's possible that if people had got off the train earlier they may have been alive getting off the train. I still very much doubt whether the outcome would be any different."

Mr Taylor asked her: "It was your opinion that Carrie would not have survived unless she got medical aid immediately?"

She answered: "Nobody would survive an injury like that without aid. I still don't know whether she would have survived if aid had come earlier."

Fellow passenger Melvin Finn told the inquests today that he believed Miss Taylor was still alive when he left the train.

Dr Quaghebeur needed treatment at the Royal London Hospital for the effects of smoke inhalation, a perforated ear drum and cuts and bruises.

After she completed her evidence, the coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, told her: "Thank goodness that you let that first train pass.

"I know it was awful for you, but I think you underestimate the importance of what you did achieve.

"You offered comfort and assistance to some people in dire distress and dire circumstances.

"In my judgment you behaved with great courage, determination and humanity, and there are a number of people who have very great cause to be grateful to you."

Another survivor of the Aldgate attack described being knocked out by the blast for 30 minutes and awaking to see a scene like a "video nasty".

Hilary Collyer recalled asking a fellow passenger what had happened and being told, "I think there's been a bomb, love".

She also said she was classed as a "priority two" for medical aid but had to wait around an hour to be taken to hospital after she was evacuated.

Terrence Hiscock, who was also in the same carriage as Tanweer, said he saw a hand moving slowly in the crater left by the blast.

Four suicide bombers armed with homemade explosives packed into rucksacks launched co-ordinated attacks on three Tube trains and a bus in London on July 7 2005.

The inquests, which are expected to last up to five months, are looking at whether the emergency services' response was adequate and whether the security agencies could have prevented the attacks.

The hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London was adjourned until tomorrow.