Hillsborough ambulance officer admits failings over ‘complete shambles’ of disaster response

An ambulance on the pitch at Hillsborough
An ambulance on the pitch at Hillsborough
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The ambulance officer first on the scene at the Hillsborough disaster has admitted a series of failings in the service’s response to fans being crushed in pens.

Paul Eason, who was a station officer for South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service in 1989, admitted today there had been a ‘delayed response’ after one representative of the victims’ families described the service’s actions as a ‘complete shambles’.

Giving evidence to the inquests into the 96 deaths, Mr Eason agreed that he had failed to properly assess the situation in the pens, failed to declare a major incident at the earliest opportunity and failed to convey all the relevant information to ambulance control.

He also accepted ‘partial responsibility’ for failing to organise and impose command and control of the situation from its outset.

Mark George, representing 22 of the victims’ families, showed Mr Eason an ambulance service report written after the disaster which said its response had been a ‘successful exercise’.

Mr George said: “That is not only an insult to the dead and injured, it is complete rubbish, isn’t it, Mr Eason, and you wouldn’t associate yourself with that, would you?”

Mr Eason said he would not.

Mr George added: “The reality is that the SYMAS response of the advance party, at any event, was a complete shambles, wasn’t it?”

Mr Eason said: “We had a delayed response.”

It comes after Mr Eason’s evidence yesterday revealed he had gone to the Leppings Lane terrace shortly after the 3pm kick-off noticing a disturbance.

He said he saw a man by the goal who he assessed and found to have a suspected broken leg and made a ‘flawed’ assessment that this was his priority rather than what was happening in the pens.

The court was shown video footage and pictures from about 3.05pm which appeared to show Mr Eason standing close to and apparently looking into the pens.

Mr Eason said he didn’t see the people who were crushed and would have acted if he had.

The court heard Mr Eason returned to the ambulance at the other end of the ground to get equipment to help the man with the suspected broken leg.

He then went back to the Leppings Lane end and told the court it was not until about 3.16pm that he realised fans were being crushed.

Mr Eason did not put out a major incident alert until 3.22pm - more than 15 minutes after the match was stopped.

The court was read a transcript of Mr Eason’s message which said there seemed to be a ‘great number’ of dead people on the terraces.

He agreed that the declaration had been ‘far too late’.

But he did not accept that he should have called a major incident at 3.05pm.