Reporter recalls 'shocking' and 'appalling' story of King's Cross fire hero

A reporter who covered the horrific King's Cross fire in the UK has recalled the "shocking" and "appalling" story recounted by a heroic police officer who risked his life to save others from the inferno.

Former Press Association journalist Ray Massey was the first to interview British Transport Police officer and Falklands War veteran Stephen Hanson as he lay badly injured in hospital.

Mr Hanson had agreed to speak to just one reporter following the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 31 people and left 100 more injured.

He would later go on to earn the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his heroic actions, which included battling in vain to save a young boy trapped under his mother's lifeless body.

As Mr Massey walked into the bedroom at London's University College Hospital, he was confronted by a scene that epitomised the horror of Britain's worst ever London Underground fire.

Mr Hanson lay with his incinerated hands held aloft in thickly padded protective cladding, his burned and raw face recovering from the skilled work of plastic surgeons after he faced down a fireball.

Remembering being given a five-minute deadline to finish the interview, Mr Massey said: "There was nothing clever about my opening gambit: 'Please start at the beginning and talk me through it, step by step'.

"He did. It was shocking, appalling, and riveting."

For Mr Massey, a stand-out moment of the interview - which he says remains etched in his mind - was when the police officer described standing at the top of the escalator, looking down into the abyss and seeing the massive fireball heading up the tunnel towards him.

"He described in detail what went through his mind in that fraction of a second before it reached him," said Mr Massey. "He thought it was all over. He said his goodbyes to his loved ones and prepared to meet his maker."

Despite being badly burned, Mr Hanson survived - and immediately began helping those around him.

He would go on to become a pivotal witness to the tragedy, which started when years of dust and detritus underneath the ancient wooden escalators on the Piccadilly Line at King's Cross ignited from a discarded and smouldering match or cigarette.


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