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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Bus bombing 'traumatised' driver
George Psaradakis
George Psaradakis

The driver of the bus blown apart by one of the London bombers last year says he has been left permanently traumatised by the explosion.

George Psaradakis, 50, was in the driver's seat when suicide bomber Hasib Hussain, 18, from Leeds, killed himself and 13 passengers in Tavistock Square.

"Another bomb exploded inside me - it was carnage, too gruesome to go into detail," said the father-of-three.

"It was death - I could feel it, I could smell it."

Mr Psaradakis, who returned to his job despite his experiences, will be among those attending a memorial event for the 7 July victims in London's Regent's Park.

Normal day

He believes it is a miracle he survived the bus bombing and hopes his life will finally get back to some form of normality after Friday's one-year anniversary.

"It has traumatised me so deeply - the events of a year ago are indelibly on my mind," he said.

The Greek-born bus driver, who moved to London in 1972 initially to stay with relatives, described himself as a family man, who was leading a normal life until a year ago.

He recalled being in a happy mood on 7 July, partly because London had just won the race to stage the 2012 Olympics.

He was also due to have a long weekend break with his wife Andriani and children when his shift finished.

He was starting another journey on the number 30 bus from Marble Arch to Stratford when, as he approached Baker Street, he received a message from his central control that there was a problem on the underground and extra passengers would be using buses.

Commuter chaos

"There were only a few passengers on my bus, but as I approached Baker Street I could see hundreds of people waiting for buses," he said.

"I stopped and my bus quickly filled up. I was driving very slowly because traffic was building up and the pavements were full of people.

The bus wreckage in Tavistock Square
The bus bomb killed 13 passengers as it exploded in Tavistock Square

"Passengers kept asking me if I could let them off the bus so they could walk because we were going so slowly. It was very chaotic."

Police had set up diversions around Euston because of the bombs on the underground, forcing Mr Psaradakis to turn into Tavistock Square.

"I announced that it might be quicker to walk and a large number of passengers got off," he said.

'Nothing touched me'

Mr Psaradakis asked a traffic warden the name of the road, and it was as he moved off again that the bomb exploded.

"It was a bang. For a split second I thought I had hit something. It never crossed my mind that it was a bomb," he said.

"I saw debris flying around, the windscreen blew out, but absolutely nothing touched me. I felt dust in my hair. I was just stunned and puzzled.

"I thought 'what happened to my passengers?' because... a few minutes back I could hear them.

"They were youngsters, young girls, young boys, they were laughing, chatting on their phones, full of life.

I hope that after the anniversary things will start getting better because although nothing happened to me physically, psychologically I have been traumatised
George Psaradakis

"I don't remember how I got out of my cab but I glanced to the back of the bus and I saw it was a bomb because of the devastation."

Mr Psaradakis then set about helping some of those caught up in the blast.

'Horrific images'

"I was helping a young man to lie in a more comfortable position. I don't know if I was with him for seconds or minutes. Time was standing still," he said.

"It was really silent. I saw some horrific images which really disturbed me.

"Most of the people I saw were young, they had been so full of life. I felt devastated because they had been under my care.

"The fact that someone could jump on the bus and kill my passengers in such a cowardly way was devastating.

"I still have utter contempt for the people who carried out the bombings. It was barbaric and they achieved nothing but killing innocent people."

Explosion aftermath

But as Mr Psaradakis tried to help, he admitted he was in a state of panic.

A policeman led him to a nearby building where survivors were being treated.

"I was shaking and crying - I was overwhelmed. Everyone treated each other like a sister or brother.

"A plain clothes policeman held me to stop me shaking. I learned later that he was injured.

"I saw him on a stretcher with an oxygen mask over his face. He looked at me and gave me a thumbs up sign."

George Psaradakis next to a bus
George returned to work and still drives the number 30 route

Mr Psaradakis paid tribute to the emergency services and other helpers who treated the survivors, adding that good had prevailed over the evil of the bombings.

"It was human nature at its best. Everyone was caring for someone else."

Miracle survival

Mr Psaradakis was examined at a hospital before going to his brother's house to be reunited with his family.

"Everyone was astonished to see me. For me to live was a miracle. The Virgin Mary protected me," he said.

"I would like to move on but it is very difficult. The scenes were so strong. It is very difficult to get it out of my mind."

He added: "My family has been very supportive but they have been affected as well.

"Still I'm moody, and in the beginning I was crying. There's a change in our family, we used to be a very happy family.

"I hope that after the anniversary things will start getting better because although nothing happened to me physically, psychologically I have been traumatised."

He said his Christian faith had helped him cope with the past year and revealed that every Sunday he lights a candle in church for the victims.

He also feels sympathy for the parents of the bombers, who he said must have been devastated.

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