Clubbers were spitting and fighting as firefighters tried to save students from Northampton nightclub crush

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A firefighter said “punches and elbows” were aimed at his colleagues as they tried to help people in a crush that led to the deaths of two girls at a Northampton nightclub.

Steve Swan told the jury at the inquest of Dani Jackson and Nabila Nanfuka that he had been called to Lava & Ignite in the early hours of October 19 2011, after reports of people trapped in a lift.

When the crew arrived they saw a crowd of people five or six deep trying to get back into the club and they had to fight their way through.

The firefighters saw a huge crush on the stairs and - after trying to free people only to find more clubbers fell into the gap created - decided to go to the back of the crowd via a fire escape that brought them into the dance floor.

It was only then that the crush ended after Mr Swan ordered a bouncer to sound the fire alarm which cut the music and played a recorded message asking people to leave through fire exits.

He said: “People in crowds of tens and twenties started to flood back in, which alleviated the crush and the emergency situation fairly quickly.”

Asked whether the alarm risked making things worse, Mr Swan said the crush was already at its peak and “couldn’t possibly have got any worse.”

Like police officers and bouncers who had appeared as witnesses, Mr Swan described a violent and bad-tempered atmosphere among a number of clubbers.

He said: “You could hear distinct panic and shouting. There was a smell of fear in the air.

“The whole of the nightclub was in full panic and disarray.”

He added: “There were punches and elbows and bad language directed at the fire service and other clubbers.

“There was sporadic pockets of fighting and sexual assault activity that we directed to the police. There was also spitting.

“It was because nobody realised what was happening below.”