Ambulance man thought Hillsborough priority was man with broken leg

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A senior ambulance man has told the Hillsborough inquest jury he initially thought the disaster was crowd disorder and his priority was a fan with a broken leg.

Paul Eason was station officer for the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service on the day of the disaster in April 1989.

He was in charge of the station and started working at Hillsborough in 1987 liaising with Sheffield Wednesday and providing eyes and ears for the ambulance service at league matches.

Questioned by Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests, Mr Eason said on the day of the match he and his colleagues were not given their usual seats in the South Stand because the club had sold those tickets.

He said he was ‘concerned’ as it meant they would not have an elevated view of the pitch and stands as normal.

He took up the same position with his team as they had been in for the previous year’s semi-final, in the corner of the ground between the Kop and the North Stand.

Shortly after kick off, Mr Eason noticed a ‘disturbance’ at the Leppings Lane end and walked down to take a closer look.

He went to the terraces to assess whether there were casualties, how many there were and whether people were trapped.

He said: “It looked like a crowd disturbance to me.

“I wondered whether there’d been some sort of, maybe fighting going on, or something like that, and people were trying to get out of the way.”

Someone asked him to look at their friend who had an injury and Mr Eason assessed he had a suspected broken leg.

He said: “I didn’t know whether there’d been some problems behind the stand, or anything like that, and at that point I took the lad with the fractured leg, or the suspected fractured leg, as being the priority at the time.

“I recollect police officers being there in particular, and I got the impression that they were quite satisfied with the situation.”

Mr Eason said at one point officers appeared to be asking fans to go further back into the stand.

“I remember seeing policemen stood more or less motionless looking into the pens,” he said.

The court was shown a photograph of fans crushed against the perimeter fence and Ms Lambert asked if Mr Eason had looked into the pens.

He said no, and when asked why not, he told the jury: “Because I wasn’t looking for them, I was looking at these people on the pitch.”

He told the court police officers in the area did not seem to be ‘overly concerned’ and there ‘wasn’t any sort of urgency about anything’.

He said the situation was becoming more aggressive and he was punched in the chest and subjected to abuse.

Mr Eason agreed with Miss Lambert he’d was sure he’d been treated that way because fans wanted him to help.

He said at 3.11pm his colleagues Mr Chippendale and Mr Worrall arrived with a stretcher and equipment and they applied a splint to the man with the broken leg.

He said he was unable to recall if he did anything to assess fans on the pitch and said at that stage he still thought it was a crowd disturbance so did not look at the pens.

When he did see fans crushed against the fence, Mr Eason said it made him feel ‘very confused and very concerned’.

“Desperate really to get some sort of help. I felt very, very alone.”

Miss Lambert asked him: “Why did you go to look at that individual fan when, by this stage, as I understand it, you knew there was a major incident, a real problem, at the Leppings Lane terrace?”

Mr Eason said he was distracted and accepted valuable minutes had been lost.

He told the court: “In terms of the training manual, then that would be considered to be an error on my part. 
“However, I wasn’t prepared to let that lad just be left like that.

“I think the mistake that I made was presuming it was something it turned out not to be.”

The inquests continue.