Commuters’ heroism amid hell and terror of London bombings

In the immediate aftermath of the July 7 bombings in London – amid the terrifying darkness of the Tube network – commuters came together to try to save their fellow passengers. Yesterday, at the inquest into the deaths of the 52 innocent people killed in the 2005 attacks, their stories were finally told.

During the second day of the inquest, personal details about the lives of all the victims and how they met their deaths were listed by Hugo Keith, QC, the counsel for the coroner.

As he went through the names of the dead, he also made mention of several brave passengers who risked their own lives trying to help fellow commuters. They were, Keith said, “acts of remarkable heroism and human fortitude”.

The bombings began at 8.49am with the first blast at Aldgate. The court heard that the Circle line train was moving at 15-25km/h when its driver, Timothy Batkin, heard a “muffled thud”.

Batkin, unable to use his temperamental train radio, quickly used his own cellphone to alert those above ground to the tragedy unfolding. Then, hearing the screams of “help us, help”, he evacuated passengers from the front of the train before going to the rear to do the same.

Dr Gerardine Quaghebeur, a passenger on the Circle line train, began treating the wounded alongside her fellow traveller Stephen Desborough. They came across Lee Baisden, who had been killed instantly. Quaghebeur also helped Fiona Stevenson, a 29-year-old solicitor. The doctor felt a pulse and tended to Stevenson for 20 minutes until a paramedic arrived. By that time she was dead.

Next, the doctor came across Carrie Taylor, a 24-year-old who worked for the Royal Society of Arts. Taylor had been blown through the plastic screen in the carriage, incurring severe head injuries, and was screaming for help. Steven Jones, another passenger, laid her on the floor while Quaghebeur shouted: “Get me a medic! This woman has only minutes to live if I do not get a medic.” Taylor died shortly afterwards.

In the same carriage, off-duty police officer Elizabeth Kenworthy used her corduroy jacket to apply a tourniquet to the leg of Andrew Brown, before removing her belt to do the same to Martine Wright. She gave them water and held their hands until they were rescued. Both survived.

The stories of the first members of the emergency services to arrive at the scenes were also heard. After 15 minutes of searching for survivors and tending to the wounded, Craig Cassidy and his fellow paramedics and firefighters were told to evacuate the tunnel for fear they might be killed by a second blast. They ignored the warning and chose to stay.

At Edgware Rd, passengers on a train travelling parallel to the one bombed by Mohammad Sidique Khan smashed the windows of their carriage and clambered across the tracks to hurry to the aid of the wounded “without regard for their personal safety”, said Keith.

Two of them, Anthony Pantling and Sandip Meisuria, tended to Michael Brewster, a council worker who had travelled from Derby for a meeting. The men gave him water and compressed his chest, before using a necktie to apply a tourniquet around his leg. Despite their efforts Brewster, 52, died.

Another passenger, Steve Hucklesby, used the train’s handrails to swing across the debris-strewn carriage after hearing shouts for someone to administer first aid. He came across Laura Webb, a 29-year-old accounts manager, and tried to resuscitate her but she too died.

Dr Elizabeth Wynne-Evans was at Edgware Rd on her way to work as a pathologist at the Royal London Hospital. Upon being told the station was closed, she stayed to treat the escaping injured before going underground to try in the carriages.

Among the tales of heroism were the sad stories of the dead. Many had altered their plans only to find themselves on the same train or bus as one of the bombers.

Jennifer Nicholson, a 24-year-old publisher who usually used the Bakerloo line but had changed to the Circle line because of delays, died in the Edgware Rd bombing. Christian Small, 28, gave up his place on a Piccadilly line train to a woman only to die after boarding the next one.

Some, like Maria Hartley, had only been visiting the capital when they were killed. The 34-year-old had come from Lancashire to attend a concert. James Mayes, a 28-year-old from Islington, had returned from a holiday in Prague only the previous day when he died.

About 15 others survived the initial blast, only to die from their injuries later. Sam Ly, an 28-year-old Australian, was injured in the bus blast at Tavistock Square, survived in hospital for a week but died on July 14. His father spent four days by his son’s bedside before he died.

Samantha Badham and Lee Harris grew up together in Hereford before moving to Tottenham, and planned to marry. They were thrown from the Piccadilly line train but survived and managed to shout for help. Badham, 35, died as she was stretchered up stairs on her way to an ambulance. Harris, 30, died in hospital on July 15.

Almost all the bus victims were only there because the Tube was closed.

Some, like charity worker Anat Rosenberg, 39, and publisher Miriam Hyman, 32, had spoken to their relatives to assure them they were fine, unaware that Hasib Hussain was about to detonate his bomb beside them.

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