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Hillsborough inquests: Ex-ambulance chief Albert Page criticised

Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new inquests are being held in Warrington

An ex-chief ambulance officer said in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy he would "take credit" for a successful response, the inquests heard.

But Albert Page also warned two other senior officers their heads would be "on the block" if things did not go well, the hearing was told.

Mr Page denied both allegations by one of his deputies, former assistant chief ambulance officer David Jones.

Ninety-six fans died after a terrace crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Jones said he was standing with deputy chief ambulance officer Alan Hopkins when Mr Page "said something like: 'If we had made a success of this, I will take all the credit as chief - if we have effed up on this, your two heads are on the block.'"

He told the hearing the conversation took place after Mr Page, then South Yorkshire's chief ambulance officer, arrived at the stadium in Sheffield between 18:00 and 18:30.

Mr Jones, who retired from South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) in 1993, told the court he was "quite shocked" by what Mr Page said.

Christina Lambert QC, for the coroner, told him it was understood Mr Page denied making those comments.

'Chaotic scene'

Asked whether that "shook his confidence in his recollection", Mr Jones replied: "No, not at all.

"I thought Hopkins was going to hit him. I just walked away from the situation and so did Hopkins."

Mr Jones was not working on the day of the 15 April 1989 match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, but reported for duty after seeing the tragedy unfolding on television.

He parked next to the stadium and said he saw "thousands of people, fans, police milling around".

"I saw an ambulance that was on the service road. It was just chaotic. It was just crammed full of people," he said.

Image caption Former assistant chief ambulance officer David Jones said he found 'chaos' outside the stadium

"I saw about eight or nine bodies just sort of stacked up against the railings... they were covered with basically anything that people had been able to get their hands on - coats, plastic sheeting."

Mr Jones contacted the SYMAS control room to request more ambulances before making his way from the Leppings Lane end to the stadium's gymnasium, where casualties and the dead were taken.

There he was met by Mr Hopkins in the building's doorway who, "picked me up and squeezed me and said something like 'I've never been so glad to see you in all my life'.

"I had to ask him to put me down. He was quite emotional and a little bit tearful and I said 'OK, Alan, what do you want me to do?'"

"He said: 'Get out there and get it sorted out.'"

'Multiple accident scene'

Mr Jones said there was "difficulty" in getting vehicles in and out of the area.

"It looked like a multiple motorway accident - there were vehicles all over the place," he said.

Earlier in the inquests, leading ambulanceman Peter Litster claimed Mr Jones had been ineffective and acted like a "headless chicken".

Mr Jones said he "totally" rejected this criticism.


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Mr Jones also denied Mr Litster's suggestion he had been leaning against a wall and banging his radio against it.

He accepted he had experienced problems with his radio, but said he told Mr Litster it was "like banging your head against a brick wall".

The ambulance service's performance in getting casualties to hospital on the day of the disaster, Mr Jones said, was "exceptional in major incident management terms".

The staff response was "just unbelievable", he added.

"There were a lot of people... just trying to do so much in such a short space of time," he said.

"I saw a lot of people trying their hardest to do whatever they could - that included police officers, football fans, ambulance personnel, doctors etc."

He said SYMAS dealt with "200 living casualties" and 93 fatalities, within 90 minutes.

The inquests, sitting in Warrington, Cheshire continue.

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