'Bedlam' inside Shirley Towers the night firefighters died

3:01pm Friday 22nd June 2012

By Jon Reeve

A FIREFIGHTER badly hurt in the terror blaze that killed two colleagues has described the "bedlam" inside the high-rise flat.

Liam Ryan told Southampton Coroner's Court he "lost his mind" as extreme heat engulfed the home in Shirley Towers.

He was one of four firefighters sent inside flat 72 to find and tackle the blaze on April 6, 2010.

Mr Ryan had to be rescued from the burning flat by Redbridge Hill fire station colleague Keith Holland after temperatures suddenly rose massively.

St Mary's Red Watch crew members Alan Bannon and Jim Shears, who had followed behind the other two firefighters, were overcome by the extreme heat and lost their lives.

Despite having regularly visited relatives who lived in the tower block, Mr Ryan said the high temperatures and thick smoke had left him so disorientated he had no idea how to get out of the flat, saying he had essentially "lost his mind" as he tried to protect his badly burned hands.

Giving evidence at Mr Bannon and Mr Shears' inquest today, Mr Ryan said the trouble started after he and Mr Holland had checked the upstairs bedrooms.

He said: "We were just basically telling them to go down and that's when it all went wrong.

"I was on the landing when it first happened. Then I knew we had to get out.

"Alan and Jim were obviously before us. We were just shouting 'get out, get out'."

The court heard the stairwell swiftly became "a corridor of heat".

Mr Ryan said: "I had been on hot jobs before, but the rapid escalation in heat that we had that night, I've never had that."

The inquest earlier heard how there was a delay getting water to the ninth floor flat where Mr Bannon, of Bitterne, Southampton, and Mr Shears, of Poole, died.

Proceeding

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