Hillsborough inquests: Ambulance officer 'failed to assess' disaster

Paul Eason at Hillsborough Image copyright Hillsborough inquests
Image caption Paul Eason and a colleague were said to be the "eyes and ears" of the ambulance service control room

A senior ambulance officer has admitted failing to "properly assess" the unfolding disaster in front of him at Hillsborough.

Paul Eason also told the inquests he failed to fully alert the ambulance control room, despite being their "eyes and ears" inside the stadium.

"Unfortunately, on this day, the eyes were blurred and the ears were blocked," he agreed.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following a crush on 15 April 1989.

On the day of the tragedy, Mr Eason, fellow station officer Patrick Higgins, and two other colleagues were positioned in one corner of Sheffield Wednesday's ground just before kick-off.

Three minutes later, at about 15:03, Mr Eason and a colleague noticed something happening on the Leppings Lane terraces and walked over to see what was going on.

A barrister representing some of the families described the walk as a "leisurely stroll" - at this point, it is claimed that Mr Eason did not know the severity of the situation.

Despite walking in front of the pens, Mr Eason said he did not notice fans being crushed inside.

Asked if he heard screaming from the pens, he replied: "All I can remember hearing is a roaring noise."

'Complete shambles'

Mr Eason agreed he "failed to properly assess the situation" on the Leppings Lane terraces at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

He also accepted he "failed to declare a major emergency at the earliest opportunity", and "failed to relay all the relevant information to South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) control".

Asked whether he thought he adequately informed anyone of what was going on - so hospitals could be prepared - he said: "I think that the mistake that I made there was presuming that the control room would know what I was doing and would pass that information on.

"That was the mistake I made - I assumed they would understand what I was dealing with. Obviously they didn't. They couldn't be expected to."

Transcripts of a conversation between ambulance control and police at 15:08 showed an officer asked for a "fleet of ambulances" and then "all the ambulances you have got available".

A similar conversation was had at 15:09.

On both occasions, the controller said there were officers in the vicinity who could assess the situation.

Mark George QC, who represents a group of families who lost loved ones, asked Mr Eason if he agreed the initial ambulance service response was "a complete shambles".

"We had a delayed response," he replied.

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The former station officer also accepted "partial responsibility" for failing to "organise and impose command-and-control from the outset".

The jury heard Mr Eason say that "under extreme circumstances, we all did the best that we could".

Mr Eason was also questioned by Jenni Richards QC, who represents Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

He agreed neither he nor the service had "anything to do with the actions and decisions that led to the severe overcrowding".

Ms Richards also said the SYMAS presence at the ground was "very modest" and included Mr Eason and three colleagues.

Asked whether "any amount of training, however good, could really have prepared" him for what happened, he said: "No. I have never experienced anything like it before or since."

The inquests, sitting in Warrington, continue.

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