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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 06:16 GMT 07:16 UK
Survivors relive lucky escapes
By Peter Scrivener

Remnants of the stand that burned down at Valley Parade

The Bradford fire may have happened 20 years ago, but for fans at the game against Lincoln on 11 May, 1985, it is a day that will live forever in their memories.

Father and son Tony and Christopher Hammond were sat only a few feet away from where the fire started in Bradford's main stand and count themselves lucky to have got out alive.

Chris, aged 12 at the time of the tragedy, told BBC Sport: "We were sat in the seats behind the standing paddock and the first thing I remember is seeing fans being moved to the back of the stand.

"In the days that followed I realised that it was a bad move as the gates at the back of the stand were all locked.

"Luckily, our block started to get moved towards the pitch.

"Dad and I moved towards the front of the stand as the smoke became more noticeable and then he just picked me up and threw me into the paddock below.

At the time a lot of fans thought it was a joke
Tony Hammond
"I ended up on the pitch on my own, with no real idea where dad was for some time.

"All you could see were people emerging from the stand with jackets and trousers on fire and then rolling on the floor to put the flames out.

"As a 12-year-old, it was easy to move on - I didn't realise how serious it was until I looked at the press coverage over the next few days.

"But looking back and seeing how much it really affected my dad makes me realise what we went through."

Tony, who only went in the main stand because his wife thought it would be safer, suffered blistering to his head and ears.

He said: "Normally, we would have been on the terrace on the opposite side of the ground, but as it was a special day, and we knew it would be busy, my wife suggested we sit in the stand.

"And to start with, a lot of people saw the smoke and thought it was a joke.

"But when I saw people being moved towards the back of the stand, I decided it would be best to get on the pitch.

"As we moved forward, a crowd of five deep had built up, so I picked Chris up and threw him over the top.

"He could have broken his arm or leg, but I just wanted to get him out - and then I thought 'I'm not getting out'.

My mum didn't watch Grandstand so she had no idea what had happened
Christopher Hammond

"The smoke in the roof turned to flames and I got scorched on my head and ears, and when I reached the pitch and found Chris I thought my hair was on fire - but Chris assured me it wasn't."

Tony and Chris made their way home and met a bewildered wife and mother who knew nothing of the events unfolding across the City.

"My mum didn't watch Grandstand so she had no idea what had happened," explained Chris.

Tony was sent to the hospital to have his injuries dealt with.

"I arrived to see lots of people worse off than me," he said.

"I had some spray put on my head and then asked the bloke next to me what was wrong with him.

"He told me that he couldn't remove his glasses from his face as they had melted onto his nose and ears - at that point, I knew there were people there in more need of attention than me, so I left."

Tony went back to Valley Parade the following day to see the remains of the stand.

"I wondered how anybody had got out alive, but I also began to feel guilty that I had got out when so many hadn't.

"I was working on a nightshift and just sat there thinking 'why me'.

"I don't know how my family lived with me through the next three years as I could lose it very easily and they were glad when I went out.

"I underwent counselling which eventually helped me through it, but I couldn't go to games for a long while after.

"And even now, whenever I'm at a game, the first thing I do is look for the exits to ensure we can get out easily should we need to."

Feature: Remembering the Bradford fire


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