Respects paid to firefighters who died in flats blaze

TRIBUTE Cosham watch manager Tim Pringle leads the firefighters of White Watch in a two-minute silence for firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears.    Picture: Malcolm Wells  (0000-9688)
TRIBUTE Cosham watch manager Tim Pringle leads the firefighters of White Watch in a two-minute silence for firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears. Picture: Malcolm Wells (0000-9688)
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FIREFIGHTERS paid a solemn tribute to two colleagues who died while on duty.

Crew members of White Watch at Cosham Fire Station were among hundreds across Hampshire who paid their respects to James Shears, 35, and 38-year-old Alan Bannon at 11am yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy.

The firefighters died after being called to help tackle a blaze which started on the seventh floor of 15-storey Shirley Towers in Southampton. Twenty fire engines and support vehicles from across the county fought the blaze on April 6 last year.

All residents were rescued from the fire that claimed the lives of Mr Bannon and Mr Shears, nicknamed Bert and Britney by colleagues.

The two-minute silence was observed across Hampshire and Rescue Service.

Flags were flown at half-mast and tributes were left at the memorial stone at the fire service’s Eastleigh headquarters.

Mr Bannon’s widow Charlotte, mum to their daughter Abi, said in a statement: ‘It doesn’t seem possible that it has been a year since we last saw Alan’s smile, heard his laugh and Abi felt his arms around her in a hug.

‘Every time I look at her I am reminded of what a wonderful, devoted and loving father he was and am saddened to think he will miss seeing our brave little girl grow up.

‘The year has passed quickly, mainly thanks to the love and support of family, friends, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the public.

‘I’d like to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sent cards, raised funds or made a donation.’

Mr Shears’ widow Carla said in a statement: ‘One year on, the pain of losing Jim is still raw.

‘I miss his smile, his funny humour and his devotion to his friends and family.

‘I’m not sure how we have managed to get through the past year.

‘My friends and family have made it possible. Support from the big-hearted public through their kind words, cards, generous contributions to fundraising events and those that have completed fantastic efforts to raise funds has bought me much warmth inside and for which I am very grateful.’

Chief officer John Bonney joined Red Watch at St Mary’s station, Southampton, where Mr Bannon and Mr Shears were stationed, to pay tribute.

In a statement, Red Watch said: ‘As a watch, it is something you never want to face – losing one of your watch members, colleagues, firefighters and above all, losing a friend, and on that night we lost two and it will stay with us forever. But as a tribute to Bert and Britney we have carried on in the most professional way we can, saving lives and working with people in our local communities.’