Liverpool

Hillsborough inquests: PC 'unaware of force disaster plan'

Ambulance at Hillsborough Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of crush at Hillsborough

A South Yorkshire police constable who requested a "fleet of ambulances" to deal with the Hillsborough disaster did not know the force's major incident plan, the inquests have heard.

Kenneth Rook also did not know to use a codeword to communicate to emergency services a major incident was underway.

The ambulance control room told him they could not send a fleet but would send their "initial response".

Mr Rook said he "would have expected a more positive response".

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were fatally injured in a crush on the terraces at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

At 15:08 BST, Mr Rook used a direct phone line from the police operations room in Sheffield to the ambulance service's control room in Rotherham.

'Serious incident'

He initially told Supt Ray Clark "we may need a few ambulances" and his call was "just sort of to pre-warn and to pre-advise you".

But after overhearing a "fleet" was needed, he said: "We are requesting a fleet of ambulances.

"All ambulances that are available to Hillsborough, please."

After Mr Rook confirmed there were "a lot" of injured, Supt Clark said: "Okay, we'll instigate an initial response and we'll assess it from there, okay?"

Mr Rook then said: "All - all ambulances you've got available - understand?"

Supt Clark replied: "Well, we can't do that. I'll send you our initial response and we'll assess - we've got officers at the scene."

Mr Rook told the jury he "would have expected from the message I was passing over to have had a more positive response".

Four South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service officers were stationed in the ground for the match.

The jury also heard Mr Rook was not aware of, and had not read, the force's major incident plan.

Asked if he "ought to have known about it", Mr Rook said "possibly".


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Jenni Richards QC, representing the South Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said the plan "tells the force operations room in short, concise terms how to alert the other emergency services to a major incident".

Mr Rook told the jury: "When I asked for the fleet of ambulances I also told them that a lot of people may have been injured and I would assume - like any reasonable person - by me asking for a fleet of ambulances that it was a major incident."

He said had it not been "I would have asked for one ambulance. By asking for a fleet of ambulances, surely the person I was speaking to knew it was a major incident".

Asked if his call to the ambulance service was "too vague for prioritisation", Mr Rook said: "By the inference of my asking for the fleet of ambulances, by telling them that a lot of people had been injured, must instil that the incident is serious."

Mr Rook confirmed he was not told by Ch Insp Malcolm Edmundson, who was in charge of the operations room, nor any of his colleagues, to say the codeword "catastrophe".

He said: "Had they told me to use that, sir, rest assured I would have used it."

The jury heard at 15.10, Ch Insp Edmundson told an unidentified colleague: "It's diabolical, we've got hundreds of injured, sir."

Asked how that fitted with his own recollection, Mr Rook said: "The information was coming through minute by minute and everybody was aghast at the size and the escalation of the incident.

"At the time it was horrific that we kept hearing how bad the incident was becoming."

The inquests, being held in Warrington, Cheshire continue.

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