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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 06:21 GMT 07:21 UK
Helplessness in face of tragedy
By Peter Scrivener

The Bradford end visible through the charred remains of the stand
As the tragic events of Saturday, 11 May, 1985 unfolded in Valley Parade's main stand, fans in other areas of the ground were virtually helpless.

Stuart Lidbury was stood in the Bradford End - a terraced section at the opposite end of the ground to the Kop.

He, along with the rest of the crowd, was expecting a magnificent finish to the season considering City had already won the Division Three Championship.

But before half-time all smiles had vanished.

"I distinctly remember Mark Ellis was on a run down the left wing when I first saw the smoke," began Stuart.

I could feel an incredible heat on my face - it was like when you open an oven door
Stuart Lidbury

"And within a matter of seconds, flames were visible and people were jumping onto the pitch while the game was going on.

"In no time at all, the fire had reached halfway down the stand towards us because the wind was fanning it our way.

"I could feel an incredible heat on my face - it was like when you open an oven door - and my mate just said 'let's get out of here'.

"Nobody realised at first how serious it was, but as soon as a few got over the fence in front of our stand, there was real panic.

"We followed them over - it's just as well there wasn't one in front of the main stand otherwise hundreds would have perished - and got onto the pitch."

Stuart then recognised the charred remains of a coat lying on the grass.

"It belonged to a friend of mine, Matthew Wildman, but I didn't have a clue where he was.

"But as there was little we could do, we decided to walk back to our house in Bolton Woods.

"There were a number of players walking up Valley Parade away from the ground with their heads down as we left.

"I was living with Matt's cousin John Woodward at the time and had to break the news to him that I'd found his coat, but didn't know where he was - it was awful.

"Thankfully, we found out later that he had been rescued."

Meanwhile, fellow City fan Ian Richardson was among a number of fans stood on the Kop who felt completely helpless.

He said: "I was stood on the right-hand side of the Kop - the side nearest to where the fire started - and it is the way it started that I recall the most.

We were fenced in on the Kop and there was nothing we could do to help
Ian Richardson

"It was very innocuous and seemed to happen in slow motion - there was a bit of movement in the stand and I saw people get up and move away, then return and look down into the bottom of the stand.

"Then a few more people had a look, but no alarm was raised and this carried on for a few minutes.

"I continued to watch the game, but as it was poor, I became more distracted by what was going on in the stand.

"And then I saw the first few puffs of smoke.

"People contined to be inquisitve and walk over to the area, but then I saw a flame shoot through and in a matter of seconds the fire hit the roof and shot along it at a rate of knots."

"The next thing I remember is the helplessness - we were fenced in on the Kop as the authorities were keener on keeping us off the pitch, than allowing us on it, in those days.

"We stood and watched for a short while before deciding to leave as there was nothing we could do and it seemed morbid to stay any longer."

Feature: Remembering the Bradford fire


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