Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be Inspired: King's Cross fire victim whose face was burned off in 600C blaze speaks for the first time

The King's Cross fire victim had to wear a medical mask to help skin grafts and treatment of his melted face after he was severely burnt

He is the most badly burned survivor of the King's Cross fire after his face melted away and his fingers fused together when he was hit by a 600C fireball.
But survivor Kwasi Afari Minta - whose face became the enduring image of the disaster - has said: 'I feel lucky'.
The fire on November 18, 1987, killed 31 people and injured more than 60 others.
Hundreds were trapped underground as black smoke poured through the tunnels as panicking crowds, screaming in terror, hammered on trains which rushed past platforms without stopping.
Bravery behind the mask: Kwasi Afari Minta, who was the most badly burned of the King's Cross survivors, says he feels lucky Those that managed to survive from the furnace-like heat and smoke have since spoken of their horror 100ft below ground.
Kwasi was one of the survivors, but he has felt the pain ever since.
25-years-ago yesterday, he was on his way home at the end of rush hour and waiting for a tube in the London station when the fire broke out and he became trapped.
He was hit in the face just moments away from safety as he tried to escape the inferno, his eyelids melted and his lips were destroyed.
His fingers - which, as a musician were his livelihood, were fused together, and became little more than stumps.

Still alight and unable to put out the flames, he prayed for a miracle.
He survived only after tube passengers tore his burning clothes off as he staggered towards them.
Kwasi spent six months in hospital, wearing a mask to keep his skin moist while his face was being rebuilt.
He has endured 30 operations in 25 years, procedures that have caused him immense suffering.
With his 'claw-like' hands and debilitating pain every time he closes his eyes, he cannot cope with anymore operations.
Kwasi was about to walk off the last step of the escalator to safety when he was hit by a huge fireball

But despite his torment, he still regards himself as 'one of the lucky ones'.
He told the Sunday Mirror: 'When I meet people I knew from before the fire, that's when the problems start, if they react badly and sympathise. I don't want tears or sympathy. But I'm still here. I have my son. Most of the time I feel lucky.'
Sadly his battle to rebuild his life since the incident has been just as painful.
He has relied on benefits ever since after struggling to find work and being shunned because of his face.
His first marriage collapsed because his injuries were too severe for his wife to bear.
His second wife Regina died in 2003 aged just 45 after an internal hemorrhage.
The 58-year-old, pictured, had to spend six months in hospital while his face was rebuilt after the horrifying incident at King's Cross station

Kwasi's son Eugene, 20, is severely autistic - a condition he believes was brought on by the trauma of the fire. He cannot speak and has the mental age of a 10-year-old.
He added: 'It might have happened 25 years ago but we’re still both living it... even now.'
The 58-year-old, a music producer from Ghana who had lived in the UK for two years, was buying records on the day of the fire.
He was waiting for a Victoria Line train to his home in Leyton, East London, when the fire broke out, thought to be caused by a discarded match.
People trapped in the underground prayed for a miracle. Many lost their lives
Tragic: Burnt bodies are loaded onto ambulances outside the station after the fire killed 31 people
Tragic: Burnt bodies are loaded onto ambulances outside the station after the fire killed 31 people

An announcement came over the tannoy from the fire service telling commuters the station could go up in flames at any time.
Kwasi was about to walk off the last step at the top of an escalator and was almost safe when he was hit by a huge fireball on the left side of his face.
Kwasi, who now lives in Putney, South London, told the Sunday Mirror: 'I started running, trying to escape. But I couldn't. All the exits were blocked. I was trapped. I was still burning but I didn't know how to put out the flames. I just knew that if I fell down I would be dead.'
He was taken to Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton, where he spent six months as surgeons rebuilt his face.

London Regional Transport admitted liability for the fire and paid out more than £4.5million to victims and their families.
But Kwasi - who went to the High Court seeking £780,000 - lost his case and was awarded £150,000.
After paying legal fees he ended up with just £28,000.
The fire started at about 7.30pm in dry rubbish under a wooden escalator after a passenger is believed to have thrown away a cigarette or match.
The escalator ran between the Piccadilly line and the mainline station. Kings Cross, London's busiest station, was full of commuters at the tail end of the rush hour.
Many passengers were trapped underground as the escalator went up in flames. Tiles came off walls and concrete was damaged because of the intense heat.


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