THE harrowing moment two missing firemen were finally found unconscious inside a burning Southampton flat and rescued was told to an inquest jury today.
After repeated attempts by numerous firefighters sent into the burning ninth floor flat in Shirley Towers, Red Watch colleagues Alan Bannon and Jim Shears were finally discovered collapsed and trapped under cables on the upper floor of the property.
Southampton Coroners Court heard how the two men were found, one in each bedroom, at 9.36pm, when retained firefighter Mark Hair managed to get up the second set of stairs inside the flat.
He described to the court how he found the first casualty using a thermal imaging camera and then felt his way to him in the thick smoke.
Mr Hair told how he wrestled to pull the firefighter free from the heavy cables, becoming tangled himself as he did so.
Having passed the firefighter down the stairs to a secondary crew to get him out, Mr Hairs went back up to the landing where the smoke had cleared slightly and he spotted the second fireman.
Slightly less trapped, he again pulled him free and down the stairs where help was waiting.
Mr Hair told jurors at the inquest into the deaths of the red Watch firegfighters how he was struggling to breathe in extremely hot conditions and was trying to free himself from the cabling which had become trapped around his legs, waist and breathing apparatus, before managing to get out.
Eventually outside the tower block he was taken to sit down, describing himself as “exhausted” from the conditions and the mental and physical experience he had just endured.
The inquest had previously heard from Red Watch firefighter Richard Sawdon who had described how a short time earlier he had made repeated and desperate, yet failed attempts to get up the stairs to reach his two friends.
He told how the conditions were becoming increasingly dangerous, with falling heavy cabling, extreme increases in temperature and zero visibility because of the thick smoke.
He said: “My thought was that I was sat in fuel. It struck me that it was so thick, black and hot.”
He described how on the floor below there were teams “queuing up to go in, they were fully aware of how serious the situation was” as time went by.
Mr Sawdon later heard the distressing news that the casualties had been recovered and were in a serious situation, helped to carry them out through a door and watched as efforts were made to revive them, the court was told.
Mr Bannon however was pronounced dead at the scene while Mr Shears died at hospital a short time later.