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Misadventure verdict on deaths of firefighters Alan Bannon and Jim Shears at Shirley Towers inquest
A JURY has found that firefighters Alan Bannon and Jim Shears died from misadventure but also identified a number of factors which led to the men's death.
The panel of four women and six men took just over an hour of deliberations to come to their verdict at Southampton Coroners' Court, after hearing 15 days of evidence about the circumstances which led to the tragedy.
The men from St Mary's Red Watch died on April 6, 2010, while tackling a fire at Shirley Towers in Southampton.
A post mortem found that Mr Bannon, 38, from Bitterne, and Jim Shears, 35, from Poole died after exposure to excessive heat.
The foreman of the jury said they found that on the evidence that they heard both men died from misadventure in conjunction with what's referred to as a narrative verdict, which gives a more detailed description of the circumstances.
That verdict read: “The firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears died from a sudden exposure to initially intense heat from 20:38 to 20:41 and thereafter extreme heat while dealing with a fire in a flat on the ninth floor of the high rise tower block in Shirley Towers.
“Obvious precautions to prevent the fire occurring were not taken. In addition operating conditions for all other firefighters involved became extremely difficult and dangerous and that significantly contributed to the deaths of Alan Bannon and James Shears.
“Numerous factors have been identified as being relevant in the chain of causation which could have affected the eventual outcome and which where appropriate will form the basis of recommendation to improve the safety in future.”
The widows of the two men, Charlotte Bannon and Carla Shears, and other family members were at the inquest to hear the verdict.
Mr Shears's father Edward said: ''We as a family have lost a son, a husband, a father and a brother.
''Red Watch St Mary's have lost two brothers.
''Nothing can bring Jim and Alan back but we want Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service to put procedures in place to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again, leading to the deaths of other firefighters.
A statement released on behalf of Mr Bannon's family said: ''We can only hope that the recommendations which surely must follow today's verdict are taken on board and implemented by all fire services nationally and other relevant parties therefore leading to better safety of our firefighters around the country.
''We do not want any other families to have to go through the same pain as we have suffered and continue to endure.''
After the jury delivered their verdict, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) released a statement about the tragedy.
In it, Matt Wrack, the union's general secretary, said that following the deaths at Shirley Towers, both the FBU and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have worked to come up with 10 key recommendations to ensure there is no repeat of what happened to Mr Bannon and Mr Shears.
Shortly afterwards, Southampton City Council's portfolio holder for housing, Warwick Payne, said in a statement that the council was also working to 'ensure the safety both residents and emergency services' following the fire.
During the course of the inquest, jurors heard how the fire started due to a curtain being left hanging over a light fitting and how the residents tried to tackle the fire with a bottle of Dr.
As the blaze took hold, temperatures inside the ninth-floor flat reached 1,000 degrees Celsius and jurors were shown photographs of the devastation caused.
Meanwhile, Keith Wiseman, the coroner presiding over the inquest, will make a number of safety recommendations following the tragedy.
Speaking to the families of the two firemen, he said: "What we have been dealing with here was a situation where their respective husbands went out for a normal shift on a demanding job and simply failed to come back."
• Additional reporting by Jon Reeve, Melanie Adams and Dan Kerins
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