Tuesday, April 04, 2006

London Ambulance Service on July 7th

The ambulance crews and the emergency services performed many heroic deeds on the day, as I and many others have said many times before. They were valiant, compassionate and dedicated. I have never criticised any individual responder to the scenes of the bombs, nor the care I and others received after, in fact, I have always said the opposite. What I have criticised is the Russell Square situation, where ambulances needed did not come for two hours. I think one ambulance did come, but I did not see it, and Russell Square was the scene where 26 died, and there were many very serious injuries at that scene. So I have always wondered why the ambulances did not come for so long. People were looked after by staff from nearby Gt. Ormond St. children's hospital, by London Underground staff, and by fellow-passengers.

Because the bomb exploded at the front of the train in carriage one, in the middle of the first carriage, those at the very front of the carriage who could walk, which included myself, left via the driver's cab and walked forwards to Russell Square which was much further away than Kings Cross. Though the train had not long left Kings Cross, and Kings Cross was a lot nearer, we could not go backwards because that was where the bomb was, behind us, and the centre of the carriage was devastated. The carriage was also in a very narrow part of the tunnel, so we could not go round the train and back along the tracks. There was no option but to walk forwards, between the tracks which we thought might be live, and it took about fifteen minutes I think, and it is a walk I will remember for the rest of my life.

Meanwhile those at the back of the first carriage who had survived, (the bomb having exploded in front of them), and the rest of the train's passengers ( carriages 2-6) went back to Kings Cross. So the majority of passengers went to Kings Cross, and were treated there or picked up and taken to hospital in ambulances, or on three requisitioned London buses, or just wandered off and self-presented at hospitals and their G.Ps later in some cases. There were about 700-900 people on the train. It was, as has been recorded, extremely crowded due to series of delays and cancellations. It was the most crowded train I have ever been on in my life, in twelve years of travelling on the Piccadilly line at rush hour.

The second difficulty with Russell Square was the highly-visible explosion of the bus 500 yards away in Tavistock Square. The injured at Russell Square were of course not nearly so visible, being either still underground, in the station or having been taken to a nearby hotel. Resource therefore was I think diverted to Tavistock Square, and the communication failures meant that it was perhaps not clear that many more ambulances were still needed at Russell Square. There was also a suspect device, and a fear of secondary devices in the tunnel, in fact, when the bus exploded people thought it was a second bomb in or near the station or just outside and at this point I think many people were moved out of the station and moved to a hotel. I left Russell Square in a black cab just before the bus bomb exploded and went to University College hospital. I did not see any ambulances and I was outside the station looking for them. It is through talking to other carriage one people and LU staff that I have found out about the delays for ambulances at the scene I left behind.

The initial meeting about London Ambulance response, held at the London Assembly was on November 3rd, and a transcript can be f0und here.

BBC London then did some digging and found out more about the call sheets and response times and the communication problems; survivors gave further testimony on 23rd March, and further clarification was asked for. You can read the request for more information from Richard Barnes the Chair of the 7 July Review Committee, and the detailed response here.

Letter from Richard Barnes - 7 July Review Committee.pdf 1MB

Response to Richard Barnes about lessons learned from 7 July.pdf 65Kb

More details about the London Assembly review can be found on their website.

You can also look at Mark's excellent 'nee-naw' blog, which contains in the archives an account of being a dispatcher in the London Ambulance Service on July 7th.

Once more, a grateful thank you to London Ambulance staff and the medical teams and the emergency services and London Underground staff for all you did. It is reassuring to read of how most people got help quickly, and to now have some answers about what happened at Russell Square, where I was, on that day.


Blogger fjl said...

This is very helpful in understanding why some were left dying. There were some who were talking on their mobiles after the explosion, who, I feel deep down, ought to have lived. A series of tragic events prevented their exit from the tube and their survival. It's absolutely heartbreaking.
But your're right, and your point mustn't be quashed either by a perceived debt of gratitude or by formalities. London was innefficient in the face of it, and these young people left dying ought still to be with us. The thought of very young people trapped in that position is unbearable. And on the country's hearts and their conscience.
I'm bl**dy determined as a person, I'd have said 'da*mn it!' and gone in to get them on foot, and perservered. Where was the dedication. Tell us more as and when you feel you can, as this is incredibly helpful. Much love xx

April 04, 2006 9:57 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

I think we have to be relaly careful when wondering whether people died or were left dying as a result of not getting medical attention...despite terrible injuries, very many people lived and this is a tribute to the response teams and medical care. On my train, the 26 dead seemed to have died at once as far as I know. People did rush to help as soon as possible, on my train, the driver and LU staff went straight in, the police went straight in, as did the fire service and the medical teams as soon as they arrived. There was dedication, and there was a wonderful response. There were communication problems: the PDF in the post goes through them in detail.

April 04, 2006 2:31 pm  
Blogger fjl said...

Thanks Rach that is a relief, but it doesn't change the tragedy of course x

April 04, 2006 2:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi rachel.

sorry i wasnt online for a day or so as i was celebrating my birthday(monday) from what i understand ,the london ambulances services,paramedics and others performed so far beyond the call of duty that calling them "heroes" doesnt do them justice. hope all is well with u and j :)

April 05, 2006 12:47 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Happy Birthday Seth!

April 05, 2006 11:02 am  
Blogger fjl said...

...Just rushed back for my credit card, I'm meeting him (son age 21) for lunch. You know that feeling, that their attitude and sense of humour needs 'pruning', but you couldn't possibly live without them? I felt that when I grabbed my purse just now.
My heart suddenly went out to Philoola's Mummy. How does she cope. He must have been so lovely, I know just such a one.
We don't forget you. x

April 05, 2006 12:40 pm  
Blogger Sila said...

Hi Rachel,
I am not sure how long the ambulances took to come to Russell Square. I can remember now that after half an hour or a bit more, when police were bringing up mutilated people from the carriage, we were evacuted to a little hotel next door. There were no ambulances at all outside the station (at least that is what I remmeber, I was in shock, so I am not comletely sure). After 15 minutes or so we were evacuated from the little hotel. Police said to us they could not identify a car outside the station and they said it could be a car with a bomb. They made us run towards the right to the end of the street. At that moment I remember seeing ambulances. We passed after the bands that cut the street where press were waiting for us. I could run but so many people behind me could hardly walk. It was panic there thinking it was another bomb as the police had given us that information. After 10 minutes or so, police came to pick us up from the street and evacuated us to a big hotel, opposite the station. I remember loads of ambulances at that point, must have been about 1 and a half hours later after the explosion, not sure about timing though. I hope this helps.
Take care.

April 05, 2006 1:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just on your comment about thinking that those that died all did so at once; I lost a close friend at Russell Square and thought that she had died instantly. However my world was upturned late last year when I found out about a survivor who spoke to my friend as they waited to be rescued.

I sometimes wonder whether my friend could have been saved if there were no delay in the rescue. But in my heart I know that this is unfair, as ultimately she was killed by circumstances beyond the paramedics control.

April 05, 2006 7:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi rachel,thanks for the bday wishes..btw i did have (really ) butterfinger cheesecake bought at a walmart superstore an hour from manhattan,btw doesnt wally world(my name for walmart) own one of the big UK supermarket chains?

all is good here we had some weird weather,mist earlier,then around 11 am ny time a HUGE burst of snow that lasted almost 2 hours but alas it warmed up and all melted .;.oh well...

later,seth :)

April 05, 2006 9:22 pm  

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