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Firefighters had 'no change of escape'

Two firefighters died because a "massive escalation" in a blaze in a high-rise flat in Southampton caused temperatures to reach hundreds of degrees, making it impossible for them to escape, an inquest has heard.

Conditions were so bad that it was not known at first that Alan Bannon, 38, and James Shears, 35, were missing. They were among the first to reach the blaze in the 15-storey building, Shirley Towers, on April 6 2010.

It was 45 minutes before colleagues could reach the two men in the ninth-floor flat. Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman said Mr Bannon was pronounced dead at the scene and Mr Shears died later in Southampton General Hospital where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The inquest continues.

Tribute for firefighters at Shirley Towers inquest

The Chief Officer for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has read out a tribute statement at the start of the inquest into the deaths of firefighters Alan Bannon and Jim Shears. The men died in a fire at the Shirley Towers block of flats in Southampton in April 2010.

Chief Officer John Bonney said that the fire service had already made some changes in the way it tackles incidents in high rise buildings. He also pledged to make further changes if proceedings reveal they are necessary. The full transcript will follow.

"It is with great sadness that we are here today 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...

"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... "

– John Bonney, Chief Officer for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
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