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Chief Constable Paul Crowther OBE was a British Transport Police sergeant in 1987. When he heard about the King’s Cross fire, he ‘self-deployed’ to the scene to assist with the emergency response. He was given the task of helping to set up and run a temporary mortuary on the site, at a time long before many of our modern disaster victim recovery and identification procedures were in place.
CC Crowther said: “In 1987, I was a young, newly promoted sergeant at BTP. On the day of the fire I was at the Old Bailey for a trial but as the events at King’s Cross unfolded I put on my uniform and went to the scene, as many other officers did.
“I found a scene of devastation. The first thing that struck me was the smell, and seeing a number of clearly exhausted fire officers and police officers taking a rest having been down in the underground station for some time working to save people.
“There was a sense of foreboding as well because it was known at that stage that one of our colleagues from the London Fire Brigade had been killed in the incident, so people were pretty down, but determined to deal with the tragedy that had unfolded that evening.
“When you arrive at a major incident nowadays we have some very well tried and tested practices and procedures, but I don’t think that was quite the case back in 1987. So there was a degree of uncertainty, a degree of chaos as people were trying to search for people who had been lost that evening.
“What you find in all of these incidents is the gritty determination of the emergency services. Whether that’s fire, police or ambulance, it kicks in and we all rally around together to work as a team to save people.
“As we approach the 30 year anniversary, there are a number of emotions. I can remember as if it were yesterday the events on that night. My part was very small compared to that of others who were actually in the seat of the fire dealing with it, so I can only imagine how they must be feeling and the memories that are coming back for them.
“I just imagine what it must be like for the families of people who lost people, for the family of station officer Colin Townsley, the families of the many innocent people who lost their lives and of course were terribly injured.
“It’s easy for us sometimes to move on to the next major incident, but something like that sticks with people for a lifetime and that must be pretty raw for them and it’s important that we recognise that.”