UK

7 July inquest: Injured woman feared being left behind

  • 1 December 2010
  • From the section UK

A passenger who lost both legs in a Tube bombing said she was worried she would be "left behind" because her injuries were so severe.

Gill Hicks was on the Russell Square Tube when bomber Germaine Lindsay detonated a bomb on 7 July 2005, killing 26 people.

She told the coroner that she remembered "talking quite a lot and wanting to appear absolutely awake".

She was praised by the coroner for her "indomitable spirit".

Inquests being held at the Royal Courts of Justice are examining the deaths of the 52 people who were killed by suicide bombers on three Tube trains and a bus.

Ms Hicks said she thought she was having a heart attack when the bomb exploded.

The darkness was like thick tar and people were screaming, she said. She passed out and awoke on a seat.

A light in the tunnel meant she could see she had almost lost both legs and knew she was losing a lot of blood, she said.

"I looked very odd... so I was trying to assess what exactly happened and what can I do about it."

She said she deliberately held herself upright to keep herself awake and tried to talk to people around her.

"I said I can't talk any more, I was worried about fading and slipping into a state of unconsciousness."

She recalled ripping a scarf and tying it round each leg and trying to focus her mind by looking at her watch.

"The only time I really panicked was wondering if anyone knew we were in there," she said.

"I do remember talking quite a lot and wanting to appear absolutely awake and aware because I was so worried that my injuries looked so severe that I would be left behind."

Ms Hicks was later carried to Russell Square station platform where she had to be resuscitated, and then underwent surgery at St Thomas' Hospital. She lost both legs.

'Sheer willpower'

Coroner Lady Justice Hallett asked: "Where do you get such an indomitable spirit? It seems as if by a determination to live, sheer willpower and quick-thinking, you saved your own life.

One witness told of returning to the damaged train to help injured passengers

"Until I started this process, I had no idea that people could survive as horrific injuries as yours. You are amazing."

Jude Onyeze, who suffered a head injury in the explosion, walked the length of the track from near King's Cross to Russell Square, supporting another man who had lost a leg, the coroner heard.

Once at Russell Square, Mr Onyeze turned around and went back down the track to help a second passenger.

Mr Onyeze, a London Underground signal operator, carried the second person along the tunnel on his back.

He told the inquests he wanted to go back to help others, including a seriously injured woman, who were still trapped.

But station staff said emergency services had been alerted, and warned him against going back to the wrecked Piccadilly Line carriage.

Lilian Ajayi, a fellow survivor, described scenes of the injured being piled up "like a laundry basket".

Loud bang

Another passenger, Olawale Akerele, described the moment the bomb detonated.

"There was a loud, loud bang. It felt like I was being lifted off the seat. It almost felt like you were being drowned. Then I just got a whack to my head.

"I felt like I was between worlds," he told the inquests.

He said he was one of the last people to arrive at Russell Square Tube station because there were bodies slumped against his legs, making it impossible for him to free himself.

Mr Akerele needed eight stitches over his eye, suffered damage to his spine and hip, and underwent counselling.

'Adrenalin and fear'

David Boyce, a London Underground staff member, was the first to arrive at the scene of the bomb blast, having entered the tunnel after passengers at Russell Square station told him they had heard a loud bang.

He returned twice in the course of the morning, providing a first aid kit and bottled water and support for injured passengers in the damaged carriage.

"I was running on adrenalin and fear. I was just trying to do the best I can," he told the inquests.

Six months later, he was awarded an MBE for his role on the day, the inquests heard.

He described how he jumped down on to the track after reports of a bang.

"I couldn't see anything untoward but something just didn't quite feel right," he said.

Between 50 and 70 people came walking towards him along the tunnel.

He walked past them towards the carriages to find windows smashed, doors buckled and dead bodies, the court heard.

Mr Boyce said rescue efforts were hampered by inadequate radio communications and a stretcher shortage at Russell Square station. Blankets provided by a nearby hotel were used as makeshift stretchers.

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