Misadventure Verdict On Firefighters Deaths

A jury has returned a verdict of death by misadventure in the inquest of two firefighters who died while tackling a fire at a high-rise block of flats in Southampton.

Alan Bannon, 38 from Southampton, and James Shears, 35 from Poole, were killed as they battled to control the blaze on the ninth floor of the 15-storey building Shirley Towers in Southampton on April 6, 2010.

Following the 15-day hearing, the jury said the firefighters died from exposure to intense and excessive heat.

In a narrative verdict, the jury said: "Firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears died from sudden exposure to initially intense heat from 20.38 to 20.41 and thereafter to excessive heat whilst dealing with a fire in a flat on the ninth floor of the high-rise tower block Shirley Towers.

"Obvious precautions to prevent the fire occurring were not taken."

"In addition operating conditions for all firefighters involved became extremely difficult and dangerous and this significantly contributed to the deaths of firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears.

"Numerous factors have been identified as being relevant in the chain of causation which could have affected the eventual outcome and where appropriate will form the basis of recommendations to improve safety in the future."

Coroner Keith Wiseman said he would examine the evidence from the hearing and make a number of recommendations.

Speaking of the families of the victims, he said: "What we have been dealing with here was a situation where their respective husbands went out for a normal shift on a demanding job and failed to come back.

"My sympathies and the jury's and everyone in this room go out to the families as well as best wishes for the future.

"I have been asked by the jury to express their admiration to all those firefighters who dealt with this fire and the heroic efforts made in some cases to make the best result possible although sadly not entirely so."

The inquest heard Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service had made a number of changes as a result of inquiries into what went wrong.

These included sending six rather than five fire appliances to a high-rise fire, providing in-helmet radio-communication systems and making improvements to the breathing appliances used.