3 Jul 2015

Medic Recalls London Bombings 12-years On

From Eyewitness, 2:20 pm on 3 July 2015

There were people there we couldn’t help. The dead were all around us.
- Former Paramedic Sandie Davis Roberts.

This image was taken on 7th July 2005. It shows the wrecked London Underground train at Aldgate tube station  where paramedic Sandie Davis Roberts worked to save lives

7th July 2005.London Underground train at Aldgate tube station. Paramedic Sandie Davis Roberts worked amongst the wreckage to save lives. Photo: AFP PHOTO Metropolitan Police WPA POOL

It is twelve years ago on Tuesday 7th July since suicide bombers set off explosions in the London underground and on a London bus, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

This picture was  taken in 2001. It shows  Sandie dressed for Civil Defence Training

2001 Sandie dressed for Civil Defence Training Photo: Courtesy Sandie Davis Roberts

 A former English paramedic now living in Auckland spent hours helping the injured in one wrecked carriage. Sandie Davis Roberts recalls it was a scene of complete carnage.

 8.49am, Thursday morning rush hour on the London Tube; Bombs exploded in three crowded trains, and an hour later a fourth went off in a bus carrying many who’d just been evacuated from the underground.

Fifty two people were killed and 700 hundred injured in Britain’s first ever suicide attacks.

The bombings came one day after London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games with a campaign which had highlighted the city’s multi-cultural population.Three of the bombers themselves were British born sons of Pakistani immigrants while the fourth was born in Jamaica.

Amongst the confusion and panic following the attack came dozens of professional emergency teams, among them Sandie Davis Roberts who was a senior paramedic of sixteen years’ experience with the East Anglia Ambulance service. It was around noon on the 7th that Sandie in her ambulance was called into London.

This  image shows former English paramedic Sandie Davis Roberts at home in Auckland;July 2015

Sandie Davis Roberts at home in Auckland; July 2015 Photo: RNZ/David Steemson

“We thought we would take over the regular work of the London teams while they coped with the emergency”, Sandie says.

 But soon she was ordered to the Aldgate tube station, where she and her colleague had to traipse down immobilised escalators, along the rail tracks to the wrecked train.

“It was all very hazy and smoky, and really quiet, until we came across this scene of carnage“. A bit like hell she imagines.

Sandie recalls the smell too; “burnt rubber, hot mechanical smells, and the noise! The sound of cutting machinery; there was surgeon next to me, amputating a leg.”

The first person she helped was a woman trapped in a mangled door. She was covered in burns and cuts.

“She was angry”, says Sandie “asking what sort of people would do this sort of thing”; only in stronger language. Her name was Felicity. Close by, a young man had a badly lacerated leg.

“He was praying.“

Then she helped a surgeon who was trying to stitch together the badly damaged face of a well-dressed business woman. Sandie doubts she survived.

This pictire was taken on 7th July 2005. It shows an ambulance leaves the Aldgate tube station

7th July 2005. An ambulance leaves the Aldgate tube station Photo: AFP PHOTO Joshua Roberts

Hours later Sandie emerged from the tube station to find it was already dark. She drove home not really speaking to her work mate, and for the first few days she says she didn’t want people to know she’d been “down there”.

“I was a bit embarrassed actually. There were lots of heroes that day, but I was just doing the job I’d been trained for”.

This picture was taken in 2002. It shows Senior Paramedic Sandie at her daughter Amy's graduation as a paramedic

2002. Senior Paramedic Sandie at her daughter Amy's graduation as a paramedic Photo: Courtesy Sandie Davis Roberts

It was only later, when all the ambulance medics got together for a debrief that she could talk about her experiences with her peers.

“We were encouraged to discuss what we did, and if we needed help then there were counsellors on hand”. It was only then she realised how she’d been part of such a huge team which had responded on that day.It was good to know “That it was us”.

Within two years, Sandie had left England to live in Canada and she moved to New Zealand in 2008. She is proud of her daughter Amy who works  as a paramedic back in Britain, but she says she has no plans to get behind the wheel of an ambulance again.

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