Deaths of Two UK Firefighters Ruled Accidental

An inquest into the death of two firefighters in a burning tower block has recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Poole firefighter Jim Shears and his Hampshire colleague Alan Bannon died at Shirley Towers in Southampton on April 6, 2010.

A jury at Southampton Coroner's Court found they died from misadventure but also identified a number of factors which led to their deaths.

The panel of four women and six men took just over an hour of deliberations to come to their verdict after 15 days of evidence.

A post mortem found that Mr Shears, 35, from Oakdale, and Mr Bannon, 38, from Bitterne, Southampton, died after exposure to excessive heat.

The foreman of the jury said they found both men died from misadventure but also offered a narrative verdict, which gives a more detailed description of the circumstances.

That verdict read: "The firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears died from a sudden exposure to initially intense heat from 20:38 to 20:41 and thereafter extreme heat while dealing with a fire in a flat on the ninth floor of the high rise tower block in Shirley Towers.

"Obvious precautions to prevent the fire occurring were not taken. In addition operating conditions for all other firefighters involved became extremely difficult and dangerous and that significantly contributed to the deaths of 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 which where appropriate will form the basis of recommendation to improve the safety of firefighters."

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service had come up with 10 key recommendations to ensure there was no repeat of what happened to Mr Bannon and Mr Shears.

During the course of the inquest, jurors heard how the fire started due to a curtain being left hanging over a light fitting and how the residents tried to tackle the fire with a bottle of Dr. Pepper.

As the blaze took hold, temperatures inside the ninth-floor flat reached 1,000 degrees Celsius.

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