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Hillsborough tragedy 999 response was poor: ambulanceman

By Ian Herbert

Published 11/09/2012

Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The only ambulanceman to have reached the pitch as the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster unfolded has admitted, amid a growing sense that tomorrow's exhaustive independent report into the tragedy will force a fresh inquest, that the emergency service response was "poor".

Tom Edwards told an investigative ITV film on Hillsborough, screened last night, that he was staggered to discover no ambulances following him on to the pitch amid the Leppings Lane End crush and that emergency services did not "give the proper care and attention that was due to the people who were dying". When Edwards' ambulance left the field – one of the iconic pieces of footage from that day – it carried Victoria Hicks, leaving her sister, Sarah, behind. Neither survived.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has scrutinised thousands of pages of new material, is expected to shatter the notion, enshrined by Sheffield coroner Stefan Popper in his inquest after the disaster, that no evidence from after a 3.15pm cut-off on the afternoon of the FA Cup semi-final is valid because any injuries sustained before then by the 96 who died were irreversible. The medical records of the 96 are expected to be a particularly revealing part of the findings.

The panel has received the testimony of Debra Martin, the South Yorkshire Police special constable who said that Liverpool supporter Kevin Williams, who was pulled out of the Leppings Lane stand at 3.28pm, had said the word "mum" to her at some time after 3.37pm. She believes he might have been saved.

The case of Williams, who died between 3.50pm and 4pm, is integral to campaigners' hopes to demonstrate that the 3.15pm cut-off – and therefore the inquests – are invalid and should be struck out. Williams' mother, Anne Williams, has applied to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, for a new inquest. He is awaiting the full report before deciding whether to apply to the High Court. A fresh inquest for Williams – which seemed an almost unattainable target when the panel was established – would mean the initial accidental death verdicts being re-examined for all 96.

The findings of the panel – which was established in 2010 on the initiative of the then Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, to bring "full public disclosure" of all relevant Government documentation – will bring into the public domain 10 boxes of documents which were lodged in the House of Lords library when South Yorkshire Police were forced to disclose them. Burnham revealed in the House of Commons last October one police constable's handwritten statements from within that hoard. The officer described "several officers wandering about in a dazed and confused state. Some were crying and some simply sat on the grass". A note from a senior officer, attached to the top-right corner of the statement, reads: "Last 2 pages require amending. These are his own feelings. He states that PCs were sat down crying when the fans were carrying the dead and injured. This shows they were organised and we were not. Have the PC re-write the last 2 pages excluding the points mentioned."

Tomorrow may prove to be another uncomfortable day for News International, as the panel is likely to shed light on any police briefings for The Sun, which led that newspaper to its infamous decision to blame Liverpool supporters for the tragedy.

"When I set up the panel I promised the families they'd get the full truth," Burnham said last night. "I'm more and more confident that that is what they will get. From here, they got the truth and now we fight for justice."

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it was prevented, by a duty of confidentiality, from responding to Edwards' comments until tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph

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