City fire internet footage fury

Martin Fletcher

Martin Fletcher

Martin Fletcher

Martin Fletcher

First published in News by

The use of images of the Bradford City fire disaster on an internet humour site have been condemned as "beyond sick" by a man whose brother, father, grandfather and uncle perished in the blaze.

The US-based site All4Humor.com advertises itself as a home for "funny videos, clips and animations" has now been forced to remove the footage after a number of protests.

The pirated fire disaster footage was accompanied by the words: "This is how quick a fire can spread in a soccer field A celebration that turned into a nightmare but the fans didn't lose their cool and continued cheering"

Martin Fletcher, now 34, was 12 when he escaped the blaze at Valley Parade on May 11, 1985, which claimed 56 lives.

Among the dead were his brother Andrew, 11, his father John, 34, his grandfather Eddie, 63, and his uncle Peter, 32.

Today, he said: "The fact that these images were posted on a so-called humour site defies belief, I feel sick.

"To see this footage with hideous, ghoulish laughing cartoon images surrounding it was beyond sick.

"More than 5,700 people watched this footage on the site. There is an option to copy it and many will have done so, so there are probably thousands of unauthorised copies going around now.

"There are no words to describe my loss that day, to lose four members of your family like that. It's something that you carry with you everywhere you go and I know it is the same for many others who lost loved ones that day."

Earlier this year, Yorkshire Television, which owns the copyright on the footage and strictly controls its use, took action to remove the images from the YouTube website when alerted to their presence by the Telegraph & Argus.

Bradford City Football club chairman Julian Rhodes also condemned use of the tragedy as entertainment.

He said: "I do not understand why these people would put such footage on their site or why anyone would want to watch it. It just beggars belief.

"Unfortunately it seems as if thousands of people have already seen this footage so the damage is done."

Mr Fletcher, who now lives in London, said it could be time to allow a careful release of the footage to ensure that the disaster was not forgotten and try to prevent the use of pirated images.

He said: "Anyone under the age of 30 has no real comprehension of what happened.

"I think it is important that people do understand what happened and for this reason I think footage probably should be shown, but in a responsible, sensitive way.

"It is part of the history of Bradford and to censor history is a dangerous thing. The genie is out of the bottle now, and however much we would like to we cannot put it back in.

"I know YTV is putting up a local internet site and perhaps that would be a suitable forum for the footage, along with information about what happened and perhaps a donations link to the Bradford Burns Unit.

"I did agree with the ban on the use of the footage at the time but I think now that it may actually be forcing the footage underground on to sick sites like this. The Bradford City fire disaster is rapidly becoming the forgotten disaster and that is pretty unforgiveable."

When Mr Fletcher's suggestion about the sensitive use of the footage was put to Yorkshire Television, a spokesman said: "ITV Yorkshire feels that even if the material was used in a positive light it would not stop piracy of the material, in fact it would only serve to encourage it.

"On that basis, although Mr Fletcher's idea is an interesting one, we will not be changing our policy on the use of this footage."

The All4humor website, which accompanies video footage with garish cartoon graphics, looks innocuous enough at first glance but a brief search of the site reveals a much darker side.

The Bradford City fire disaster was posted among clips labelled as extreme videos, which also contains several films of people meeting their deaths in a variety of ways.

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