1. ITV Report

Inquest into firefighters' deaths in Southampton

Firefighters Jim Shears & Alan Bannon died tackling the Shirley Towers blaze Photo: Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service

An inquest is underway into the deaths of firefighters Jim Shears and Alan Bannon while they were fighting a fire in a high rise block of flats in Hampshire.

The tragedy happened in April 2010. Today at the start of the inquest John Bonney, the Chief Officer of Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service read this statement:

" It is with great sadness that we are here today (Monday 18 June) for the inquest into the deaths of our two brave colleagues James Shears and Alan Bannon. These two firefighters tragically lost their lives whilst fighting a fire in order to protect the lives of others.

"These are difficult days for the families of both Jim and Alan and their colleagues. Our thoughts continue to be with them at this time and will be throughout the inquest.

"On the evening of 6 April 2010, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to a fire at Shirley Towers, Church Street, Southampton. The fire started in Flat 72 on the ninth floor of this 15 storey block of flats. A total of 20 fire appliances and supporting vehicles were mobilised to the incident from stations across the county. During this difficult and dangerous fire Hampshire firefighters rescued a number of people and no members of the public were injured or lost their lives.

"As a professional fire and rescue service we are deeply saddened to be here today but we are committed to understanding what happened on that evening. Since the incident we have been undertaking our own investigation as well as commissioning independent research from London Fire Brigade.

"We have also worked closely with Hampshire Constabulary and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Indeed as part of the ongoing investigation, the HSE and Hampshire Constabulary have confirmed that they will not be taking any action or bringing criminal charges against the Service or any of its personnel. We are hopeful that the inquest will bring greater understanding and clarity for all those involved, but also a degree of closure for the families and an end to the formal investigatory process.

"The deaths of Jim and Alan have been a devastating loss. Neither I, nor the Service, will forget the courage and fortitude they showed on that night to defend the lives of others. This tragedy serves to remind us of the risks to which firefighters expose themselves day in and day out, every time they respond to an emergency call.

"The loss of our colleagues will forever remain in our thoughts but we feel that our best tribute to Jim and Alan has been to carry on providing the very best service that we can to the people of Hampshire. We have already made some changes in the fire service as to the way we tackle such incidents in high rise buildings and we will continue to learn from this tragic incident . If over the following weeks the proceedings reveal that we need to make further changes we will do so."

More than 20 appliances attended the fire at Shirley Towers in April 2010