Ambulance service contributed to loss of lives at Hillsborough disaster

Adobe Spark (2)Following the longest inquest in British legal history, the jury of the Hillsborough disaster that occurred at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, ruled that lives were lost as a result of mistakes made by the ambulance service.

The disaster, which saw 96 Liverpool fans die and 766 injured, occurred after police opened an exit gate to alleviate the throng of people outside. This lead to a huge influx of supporters into two of the pens, causing severe crushing to those fans already in the terrace.

After hearing evidence for over 2 years, the jury of six women and three men reached a verdict of unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority.

They were asked 14 questions related to areas such as basic facts of the disaster, policing, behaviour of the supporters and defects in the Hillsborough stadium.

When questioned on the emergency response and the role of the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) after the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, it was agreed that error or omission on behalf of SYMAS contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster.

In particular, it was felt that SYMAS officers at the scene failed to ascertain the nature of the problem at Leppings Lane, and the failure to recognise and call a Major Incident led to delays in responses to the emergency.

Speaking after the ruling, Rod Barnes, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, extended his sympathies to the bereaved families of those who lost their lives as a result of the tragedy.

‘We fully accept the jury’s conclusions that after the crush began to develop there were mistakes made by the ambulance service,’ said Barnes. ‘Lives could have been saved on the 15th April 1989 had the emergency response been different.’

He went on to apologise on behalf of Yorkshire Ambulance Service: ‘I am truly sorry. Our thoughts remain with the families as they continue to grieve and come to terms with the evidence they have heard over the last 2 years.’

‘As one of the successor organisations of South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, we have had a responsibility to ensure a full and fair examination of their response. We have done our best to make sure all relevant evidence about the ambulance service response has been put before the Court, placed in context and properly explored in an open way,’ he added.

He highlighted how the ambulance service has changed in the last 27 years and stressed how a lot has been learned from Hillsborough and other incidents.

‘We, as an organisation, are not complacent. I would like to reassure the public that the ambulance service’s ability to respond to a major disaster such as this has changed beyond all recognition.

‘We understand the importance of today for the families and friends of those who died. Our thoughts remain with them.’

In addition to the ambulance service, it was concluded that the South Yorkshire police were responsible for the development of the dangerous situation and subsequently contributed to the loss of lives due to a lack of coordination, communication, command and control, which in turn delayed or prevented appropriate responses.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that the jury’s ruling of the Hillsborough inquests has provided ‘official confirmation’ that Liverpool fans were ‘utterly blameless in the disaster’.

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