Survivor of 7/7 tells of anger at rescue delayed by 'protocols'
Tuesday 19 October 2010
The full horror of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks was brought back into focus yesterday, as survivors recalled watching people die in agony before the emergency services could reach them.
At the inquest into the 52 deaths, Michael Henning was close to tears as he recalled the "forlorn" look on an off-duty police officer's face as she held a woman who had lost both her legs.
He also spoke of the embarrassment of firefighters when he asked them why they were not rushing to the aid of those underground. "I went up to them and asked why they were not down there when there were people dying. I knew I looked a mess with blood and cuts but they would not look at me. There may have been a couple of glances but it was a look of embarrassment that they were not allowed to go down there to help," he said.
The 44-year-old broker criticised the restrictive "protocols" that prevented the rescuers from doing their jobs. One young firefighter told him they were worried about a secondary explosion. "There were people that may have survived if they had got urgent medical response there and then," he added.
Mr Henning was standing just feet away from the bomber Shehzad Tanweer when his device detonated on a Circle line train at Aldgate underground station on 7 July 2005, killing seven people. He initially thought he had died, but then heard the screams of the injured in the next carriage.
He told the inquest: "I looked through the twisted windows to see the darkness and I could see people moving slowly in pain ... It is a very difficult image to hold. One moment you had the sense of reality as you know it, your everyday Tube travel, and the next, it's all changed. I remember the questions in my head – 'What is this? What is this?' – as I'm being twisted and thrown down to the ground and then I realised it was a bomb."
Mr Henning said he walked past the carriage where Tanweer's bomb went off to see the off-duty police officer Elizabeth Kenworthy holding Martine Wright, who had lost both of her legs. Describing Ms Kenworthy's face, he said: "I had never ever seen such a forlorn look, such a desperate look."
He added: "I was quite calm but I could feel the anger rising in me because we had no help apart from the London Underground people at that stage." He suggested that firefighters, police and paramedics were held back by "protocols" but stressed that he was not criticising individuals, some of whom needed counselling later to deal with the guilt of not being able to help immediately. "When they were allowed to do their job, they did it absolutely brilliantly. There was confusion, they had problems with communication, we know that, but individually they were very brave, very professional," he said.
Mr Henning told the inquest that he considered himself a "deeply lucky person" after choosing to board the third carriage rather than the second carriage, where Tanweer was standing.
Another survivor, Steven Desborough, described how he tried to comfort Carrie Taylor and Richard Ellery as they lay dying. A trained first aider, he worked with a doctor, Gerardine Quaghebeur, to comfort Ms Taylor, 24, by cradling her in his arms amidst the "obliterated carnage" and telling her to "hang in there". He recalled hearing the doctor shouting: "Get me a medic. This woman has only minutes to live if I don't get a medic." He then helped paramedics painstakingly move the young woman on to a ladder so she could be taken out of the carriage, but she gradually slipped out of consciousness.
He told the hearing: "By this time, if I remember rightly, she had become quite quiet. There wasn't too much in the way of movement, if any. She had become very peaceful." Later a paramedic told him: "I'm sorry, she's gone."
Earlier, Mr Desborough had tried to help Mr Ellery, 21. "I did my best to calm him down," he said. "I couldn't reach to actually see over him and see what injuries he had."
He later added: "One minute I was going to work, going about my daily business on a routine day like every Londoner does, keeping their heads down. And then all of a sudden you're faced with this and you're trying to make head or tail of it and it was quite hard."
Witness: 'Some of the severely wounded died in agony'
"Why aren't you down there? There are people dying," Mr Henning asked firefighters waiting in the station.
"My view is that even if those who were too severely wounded to ever survive, some of them died in agony for 20, 30, 40 minutes, and at least they should have had the dignity of having some morphine or something.
"Initially I remember being on the ground and it was completely dark, and thinking that I must be dead. I was staring out, like in a cartoon way with eyes out on stalks, just trying to see a sense of something that I could see, but it was too dark. That's when I felt the blood and realised that perhaps it was OK," he said.
Describing the blast, he said: "It feels completely real to me now as I speak. I can feel the right-hand side of my face because I was standing right on to the explosion. I can feel it tense up now, I can feel heat. It's extremely real."
Texts show that attackers adopted TV show identities
Two of the bombers joked by text message that they were like characters from The A-Team in the days before the attacks, it emerged yesterday.
In a series of messages, Mohammad Sidique Khan, pictured, who masterminded the attacks, and Germaine Lindsay, who killed 26 people on a Piccadilly line train, adopted the roles of Face and B A Baracus, characters from the 1980s television series. Using the "operational" phones they had bought to plan the bombings, the pair also referred to "Howling Mad" Murdock and as late as 6 July used Baracus's catchphrase, "I ain't getting on no plane". The inquests have already heard the attacks might have originally been planned for 6 July, but postponed by Khan, even as he was sending his co-conspirator the texts. Investigators recovered the texts from Lindsay's phone, which was found in the wreckage of the bombing between King's Cross and Russell Square stations.
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