I was suffocating in the stampede
Brave boy in what’s become the iconic photograph of the Miracle of Parsons Green tells how he was buried under sea of bodies on station stairs . . . as his mum relives horror of trying to reach him after brother’s call
‘One man fell on me – I started screaming that I had no air’
THE schoolboy trampled in the stampede after the Parsons Green terror attack last night spoke of his terrifying ordeal.
Alex Ojeda- Sierra, 13, stumbled and fell, disappearing beneath a tide of commuters who were twice his size.
In the first account of his ordeal, Alex told how he felt passengers tread all over his head, chest and stomach as he lay trapped on a stairway.
His mother, Maria, spoke of the dread-inducing moment she heard Alex was caught up in the outrage – but was unable to reach him – and of the nightmares he has had since the attack.
Alex said: ‘One man fell on me and my legs bent backwards and my right ankle got twisted. I started screaming that I had no air.’
Only a minute earlier – 8.20am on Friday – he had been on his way to school, discussing the day ahead with his friends as their train pulled into Parsons Green station, one stop from their destination of Fulham Broadway.
At that moment, a bomb next to one of the doors failed to fully detonate but created a giant fireball, causing pandemonium.
‘I dropped my bag and we started running,’ said Alex, who was later treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and is now recovering at home in Morden, South-West London.
After several minutes, he was ‘dug out from so many bodies’ and was later pictured being carried to safety by two firefighters in one of the attack’s defining images.
When commuters eventually came to his aid, Alex’s first thought was for his elder brother, Robert, 15, with whom he had boarded the train at Wimbledon that morning.
He was unaware that Robert had earlier got off the train at East Putney station to use the lavatory.
Michael Perry, 29, a medical student who was at Parsons Green, said: ‘Alex had a massive scrape and bleeding and a contusion on his forehead where he had been knocked forward, as well as gashes on his tummy and side where he had been stepped on.
‘He had lost his brother, Robert, and he was absolutely terrified and worried about him.’
Maria said yesterday: ‘I stayed up with Alex until 5am this morning because he had nightmares. His injuries will heal but it will take longer for him to recover mentally.’
She had dropped her sons at Wimbledon station at 8am, as she does every weekday morning.
‘Around 20 minutes later I got a call from Robert,’ she said.
‘He had got off the train at East Putney to use the toilet and had borrowed someone’s phone to ask me why the next train was being held at the station.
‘I put the news on and saw there had been an incident but at first they said in Hyde Park. But then they confirmed it was Parsons Green and immediately I started panicking. I thought, “That is too close – this could be awful”.
‘I phoned Robert back and told him to get to school on the overground line because I thought he would be safe there – I didn’t want him on the Tube.
‘ I was t errified because t he school doesn’t allow phones and so I couldn’t get hold of Alex – I instinctively knew something was wrong and my panic was now in overdrive.
‘Then I received a call from an unknown number and it was a woman saying she was with my son. She put him on the line and he was very frightened.
‘He was scared because he didn’t know where his brother was – that was his main concern. I reassured him that we had spoken and Robert was okay. Alex hadn’t been at the front of the train where the bomb was but it was still very scary.’
Maria added: ‘He said everyone started running so he did, too.
‘He said his friend managed to get away but he has a weak ankle from an old injury and had tripped on the stairs.
‘Someone fell on top of him, fol- l owed by another person. He couldn’t breathe and had cracked his head open on the stairs.
‘He said he had to be dug out from so many bodies and that it was mayhem. I was in tears – it was a very difficult conversation but I was so relieved that he was alive.
‘I was so grateful the woman was there helping him. She got in an ambulance with him to comfort him and I drove to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.’
On the way she passed Parsons Green, where she saw paramedics, firefighters and police. ‘That made me more terrified because there were so many of them.’
She added: ‘When I got to the hospital I just hugged Alex and we were both crying. I just thought how lucky we had been and it could
have so easily been worse. He had grazes and bruises all over him. People were just running – it was everyone for themselves.
‘I thanked the woman for helping him – we were so fortunate that her and another man helped him. Alex asked me to thank the man too but he wasn’t around. Alex made me download Twitter and I managed to get a message online thanking him. Even after all that, all Alex wanted to do was find his brother and thank those who had helped him.’
Twitter user Lord Gustavo Vieira tweeted a photo of Alex and wrote: ‘I hope this little buddy is now warm and back home with his brother. #parsonsgreen #sad # ParsonsGreen.’ Underneath, Maria, 49, replied: ‘Thank you for looking after my son during this terrifying time. You helped him enormously. Very grateful. xx.’
She told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Alex is a very brave and special boy. He was released after a quick check-up and had an emo- tional reunion with his brother. It’s horrible to think that Robert would’ve been caught up in it too if he hadn’t gone to the loo.
‘ We are very fortunate and there are people with worse injuries who were not so lucky. We just want to take it one day at a time. Last night Alex had nightmares and the mental scars will take time to heal.
‘The emotions keep coming in waves with him and with me but we will be okay eventually.
‘I’m not sure if he’ll be back at school on Monday but we want things to get back to normal as soon as possible.’
Her husband Robert, 48, an economist, said: ‘ When Maria told me I rushed to the hospital in a panic. Thankfully, Alex was not at the end of the train where there was the explosion but he’s clearly extremely shaken up.
‘We haven’t pressed him on what happened, we’ve just been trying to have fun and he’s been telling us about it in drips and drabs. He is recovering – he was annoyed because the news reported he was ten, but he’s actually 13! He’s an extremely brave boy.’
Alex was one of many pupils on the train from The London Oratory School, where Tony Blair sent his children. As always at that time, there were boys and girls from other schools, too – a fact not lost on the terrorists.
The Oratory’s choir director Charles Cole said: ‘ The trains which go through Parsons Green are packed with Oratory pupils at that time of day. One of our pupils was right opposite the bomb at the time. Had the terrorists been successful, it’s difficult to imagine that that pupil could possibly have survived.’
‘I just hugged him – we were both crying’
‘The mental scars will take time to heal’
CARRIED TO SAFETY: Alex is lifted out of the station by firefighters. Right: Brother Robert in action on the rugby field