THE MIR­A­CLE OF PAR­SONS GREEN

School­child­ren and com­muters es­cape death as bucket bomb on train fails fully to ex­plode

Daily Mail - - Terror On The Tube - By Sam Green­hill, Ge­orge Odling and Jim Norton

WITH SCHOOL­CHILD­REN and com­muters squashed in like sar­dines, no one paid much at­ten­tion to the white bucket in a plas­tic bag yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Af­ter min­gling among the vic­tims, the ter­ror­ist who dropped off the makeshift de­vice sim­ply slipped off the packed rush-hour Tube train – leav­ing the timebomb tick­ing at their feet.

Had it worked as in­tended, a mas­sive blast of fire would have killed dozens on the new, open-plan style train which – at 8.20am yes­ter­day – was close to its ca­pac­ity of nearly 1,000 peo­ple.

Mirac­u­lously, the main charge – ap­par­ently on a timer – failed to fully det­o­nate.

But the par­tial ex­plo­sion at Par­sons Green was still enough to cre­ate a gi­ant fire­ball – and then pan­de­mo­nium. In a dan­ger­ous stam­pede to es­cape, a preg­nant woman and school­child­ren were among those crushed.

Gil­lian Wix­ley, 36, who lives in Put­ney, was eight seats from the ex­plo­sion. She said: ‘It was chaotic: There was lots of peo­ple pan­ick­ing and peo­ple were in­jured due to the crush.

‘Ev­ery­one was very emo­tional. There was one boy maybe age ten who was com­mut­ing to school on his own. He was sit­ting on the floor sob­bing.

‘He was ob­vi­ously in shock and very scared. Ev­ery­one around him was try­ing to calm him down and help him.’

The train is reg­u­larly packed full of school­child­ren. The Ful­ham area serves at least three state sec­ondary schools: Ful­ham Boys School, The Lon­don Ora­tory and Lady Mar­garet Hall along with a num­ber of in­de­pen­dent schools.

Lady Mar­garet Hall school­girl Emanuella Men­sah, 16, de­scribed the panic. I was right out­side the cor­ner shop when peo­ple started run­ning from the sta­tion. Peo­ple were shout­ing “run, run”. I saw old peo­ple, peo­ple with their kids. Then some­one shouted “ter­ror­ist!”. More peo­ple kept com­ing out of the sta­tion.

‘There were peo­ple sit­ting on the pave­ment cry­ing and in hys­ter­ics. School­girls were com­ing from all kinds of direc­tions. The teach­ers came down and we started es­cort­ing peo­ple into school.’

She said the younger chil­dren were par­tic­u­larly shocked and scared and that the dis­tress car­ried on through­out the day.

‘Years seven, eight and nine, they were all on the phone try­ing to call their par­ents. Peo­ple were cry­ing ev­ery­where.

‘The teach­ers were putting them into rooms, giv­ing them wa­ter and bis­cuits, try­ing to keep them calm. They tried to keep ev­ery­one go­ing to their les­sons but peo­ple couldn’t con­cen­trate.’

Louis Hather, 21, a com­puter pro­gram­mer, hurt his leg in the scram­ble to es­cape the train.

He said: ‘There were so many chil­dren go­ing to school on that train. We are so lucky that it seems the bomb did not go off prop­erly.

‘I was just on my nor­mal com­mute in and the train was rammed. We were stuck in like sar­dines. I was fac­ing away from the bomb when sud­denly I heard screams; they were the kind of screams that tell you some­thing se­ri­ous had hap­pened.

‘I im­me­di­ately thought: “There’s been a ter­ror at­tack.”

‘There was some­thing about the ur­gency in the way peo­ple were try­ing to get away that made me think that. It was sheer panic. I knew I had to get out as soon as I could so I ran to­wards the stairs but ev­ery­one was rush­ing and lots of peo­ple were fall­ing along the way. I tried to stay up but was be­ing pushed all over the place. There was a big crush on the stairs, with a pile-up about half way down.

‘Peo­ple were fall­ing over each other and be­ing stepped on. I tried to steady my­self by putting my arm against the wall.

‘But in the end I fell over and I lost a shoe and my bag in the rush.

‘Some­how I man­aged to get out and into the street but my stuff was still in­side.’

Shuchen Warner, a 51-year- old teacher, said: ‘I was sit­ting next to the ex­plo­sion, and I turned my head left and saw the fire­ball rag­ing to­wards me. There were flames on the ceil­ing. A girl in front of me

‘Some­one shouted Ter­ror­ist!’

fell over, then I tripped and peo­ple fell on top of me.

‘One guy helped me to get up. Af­ter we got out I saw a gentle­man on a bench, in his late 50s, who was re­ally burnt badly on his arms, head and side. A lady came to­wards me and parts of her hair were on fire and her clothes as well. You could smell the smoke. Peo­ple were cry­ing.’

Mrs Warner, from Cater­ham, Sur­rey, who teaches Chi­nese at Chelsea In­de­pen­dent Col­lege, added: ‘A boy of about 13 or 14 ap­peared to be in­jured, too. I didn’t see his face as it was a com­plete panic, but I heard peo­ple ask­ing him if he was ok. When I fell, I think I sprained my an­kle, but it could ob­vi­ously have been worse.’

Even if the blast went off pre­ma­turely – rather than fur­ther along the line closer to cen­tral Lon­don – the only exit from the Par­sons Green plat­form was down a nar­row set of steps, and many were in­jured in the melee. The panic was made worse as false re­ports spread among the crowd about a knife­man run­ning amok and a sec­ond bomb.

Peter Crow­ley was stand­ing close by as the ‘re­ally hot in­tense’ fire­ball tore across his head, char­ring his hair.

He said: ‘There was a gentle­man who was wear­ing a puffer jacket that had com­pletely melted. He had burns across his face as well.’

Lau­ren Hubbard, 24, who lives in Par­sons Green, added: ‘There was this wall of fire com­ing to­wards us. It was tall and you could feel the heat. It was flam­ing orange. There was just sheer panic.’

Chris Wild­ish said he saw ‘some very dis­tressed chil­dren, and an el­derly gentle­man who had very bad burns on his face’. He said: ‘There were a lot of schoolkids on the train and a lot of them got knocked over. There was a very, very strong acrid smell of chem­i­cals.’ BBC news­reader So­phie Ra­worth, who was out­side the sta­tion, said later she had seen a woman with burns all over her body ‘from top to toe’.

Lau­ren Saul, 17, who was help­ing vic­tims caught up in the chaos said: ‘ Peo­ple were dis­traught. I have never seen peo­ple so scared. They hadn’t been told any­thing. They didn’t know if they were go­ing home or if they could con­tact fam­ily.

‘Some didn’t know where their fam­ily were. I know some­one whose grand­son was on the train and he has only just started sec­ondary school. The ten­sions were very high.’

Suf­fer­ing: A para­medic acts quickly to wrap pro­tec­tive film over the legs and hands of a badly burned woman

Bare­foot blast vic­tim: A dis­tressed woman wear­ing only one shoe is led away from the sta­tion by res­cuers

Alight: The im­pro­vised ‘fairy light’ ex­plo­sive in a white bucket on the train, be­side a hand­bag aban­doned by a trav­eller in the panic

Ban­daged: A pas­sen­ger with fa­cial in­juries at the scene

Evac­u­a­tion: School­child­ren are es­corted from the Tube car­riage by emer­gency ser­vices

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