'She was just 3 feet from the bomber but lived and saved others'

Evening Standard, The (London, England) - November 1, 2005

  • Author/Byline: DAVID COHEN

 

NEARLY four months on and it still takes the merest hint to set off the horror for Alison Macarthy.

 

A banging door, a light bulb flickering, the smell of burning, a crush of people.

 

Her eyes roll back and Ms Macarthy is a world away as she relives a vivid slowmotion world of unimaginable carnage when the King's Cross bomb went off on 7 July, killing 26 of the 52 commuters murdered that day.

 

Suicide bomber Jermaine Lindsay was probably two to three feet away when he detonated his device in carriage 346A but a woman sitting between them took the full impact.

 

"I have a sensation of falling in the darkness," said Ms Macarthy. The 30-yearold media studies graduate, daughter of a retired British Airways pilot, was on her way from her boyfriend's flat in Finsbury Park to a job in Russell Square.

 

She added: "A huge force is pushing me down, crumpling me up, again and again and again. I am slammed against the pole and as I fall I am crushed by the ceiling coming down and by people and bits of people landing on me."

 

Ms Macarthy passed out for 15 minutes. When she woke up she could have followed an injured man who picked himself out of the rubble and headed for the emergency lights she could see down the track.

 

Instead, with no prior knowledge of first aid and despite her injuries - the explosion tore a hole the size of a tennis ball in the back of her right knee, exposing the tendon - she set about saving lives.

 

She said: "I am aware that someone is moving, struggling, on the floor beside me. I say, 'My name's Alison', and he says, 'Mine is Garri', and we even shake hands, an extraordinarily British thing to do, and that is when he says, matter-of-factly, 'Oh, I've lost my leg'." She took off her jacket and tied the arm tight just below Mr Holness's left knee.

 

Doctors said that action alone stemmed the loss of blood and saved his life.

 

She then worked her way across the carriage to Gill Hicks, 37, who had lost both legs. Ms Macarthy took the woman's scarf and used it as a tourniquet.

 

Ms Hicks had lost 75 per cent of her blood. Ms Macarthy's actions almost certainly saved her life as well. She returned to Mr Holness, 37, from Streatham, who by now was slumped in a seat, and kept him from slipping out of consciousness. Ms Macarthy said: "When I got back he rested his head on my knee, which was starting to hurt, and I held his hand.

 

He said, 'Slap me if I'm going under.' Every few minutes he'd say, 'I'm so tired, I'm going, I'm going.' So I'd hit him and say, 'Garri, you've got to stay with me.'" She shouted at Mr Holness and Ms Hicks to keep them conscious while fighting her own pain. Ms Macarthy is unable to remember the name of a another man who lay injured in the carriage, adding: "To this day, I don't know whether that third person

 

made it. To be brutally honest, I'm too afraid to find out. I worry that I should have done more and that it will be a scar and stay with me for the rest of my life.

 

"My main feeling was one of intense frustration that I couldn't do more. I felt, if only I could get a couple of aspirin, my pain would ease and I could be of more help to the people around me." Ms Macarthy added: "Anyone would have done the same in my position," but Mr Holness said: "What she did goes way beyond what any ordinary person would have done."

 

Today's memorial service at St Paul's was being attended by the Queen, Prince Philip, Tony Blair and other political and religious leaders. But the majority of the 2,300 people in the cathedral will be survivors and bereaved family and friends as well as emergency and transport workers.