Manchester Attack Survivors ‘Watched Victims Die Waiting For Help’
Survivors of the Manchester attack have told how they watched victims die as they waited for medical attention, amid an investigation into the emergency response.
Salman Abedi’s homemade device killed 22 people including children as young as eight and injured 500 more in the atrocity, which was claimed by Isis.
Criticism quickly turned to the security services after it emerged that Abedi was known but not considered an imminent threat – despite his trips to war-torn Libya and intelligence over suspicious behaviour.
But witness accounts from the terror attack have also raised questions over the emergency services’ response at Manchester Arena on 22 May.
Phil and Kim Dick, from Bradford, were waiting in the venue’s foyer for their daughter and granddaughter to leave the Ariana Grande concert when the bomb was detonated.
As only three paramedics entered the area, they told the BBC some injured victims waited more than an hour to be evacuated outside the blast zone for full treatment.
Mrs Dick said a girl with “horrific” injuries – who survived – collapsed in front of her with severe burns and bleeding from her arm, mouth and leg.
“I just kept shouting ‘we need paramedics, we need paramedics now’ and [the armed police] said ‘we’re just making sure there’s no more bombs’,” she added.
“We were just keeping [victims] alert and talking to them…it was just over an hour.”
Mr Dick said that around an hour and 10 minutes after the explosion he was told the decision had been made to evacuate casualties outside, where 56 ambulances were waiting to treat them.
“The longer it went on the more silent it became. It was really eerie and people who I had seen a little earlier, who were severely injured, were now dead,” he added.
“There was just too much for three paramedics to deal with.”
The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) said the first clinician was on the scene within four minutes of the 999 call and that the three paramedics who entered the foyer were triaging patients.
“We are extremely proud of the response that we gave on the evening of the tragic events in Manchester,” a spokesperson said.
“Our staff risked their lives to help others and undoubtedly lives were saved due to their heroic actions.
“Despite the clear risk we were faced with, the decision was made to allow three members of staff into the foyer where the blast had taken place.
“The first clinician was on scene within four minutes of the 999 emergency call being allocated and the other two clinicians followed.
“Their job was to triage the injured and work with police to move people to a place close by where they could be treated safely – and where 25 paramedics were waiting, in accordance with our major incident plan.
“Within an hour all critical patients had been moved and were being treated by 50 paramedics. Some people had already been taken to hospital. Within four hours, all the injured that required hospital care had been transferred.”
NWAS said it was confident in its response, which followed a pre-existing major incident plan, but would “welcome any findings or lessons learnt” in a review commissioned by authorities in Greater Manchester.
Firefighters, who carry emergency first aid packs, were allegedly not deployed to the arena until one hour and 47 minutes after the explosion.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was charged with coordinating the response, according to established procedure for major incidents.
The force did not answer The Independent’s questions on who made the decision not to send more paramedics into the foyer, or why it took so long for the fire brigade to deploy.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “Greater Manchester Police’s duty on the night of the attack was to preserve life and protect life.
“We deployed immediately to the scene of the attack in order to do this.
“We recognise it is our role in these situations to put ourselves in as much danger as the public and that’s what officers and staff did. This was done in a controlled and planned way along with NWAS.
“We will await the outcome of our debriefs and the independent review before commenting further.”
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has commissioned an independent review of the response by former senior civil servant Lord Kerslake.
It is looking at “what responding agencies did well on the night…as well as what could have been done better”, with a panel due to deliver its full findings by April 2018.
In an appeal for witnesses to come forward, Lord Kerslake said: “The review needs to understand exactly what happened so that we can learn the lessons of this terrible night.”
The review’s remit includes looking at issues including preparedness, risk assessments for responders and training, the command structure, communication between agencies and the “provision of support to those physically injured”.
Beverley Hughes, the deputy mayor for policing crime, said Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has “conducted its own debrief” on its response to the Manchester Arena attack and is cooperating fully with the Kerslake Review.
She added: “We have encouraged all staff including, in particular, operational crew across the organisation to contribute information openly through the independent channels provided by the review.
“The review panel will meet with crew to hear their views around the response and this will be organised independently of GMFRS. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further whilst the review is ongoing.”
The Home Office has commissioned former terror law reviewer David Anderson QC to undertake a separate review into the run-up to this year’s terror attacks in Manchester and London.
He will be reviewing internal investigations by MI6 and counter-terror police to look at what was known about the attackers and the risk assessments undertaken before their atrocities.
A Libyan militia holding Abedi’s brother, Hashem, is considering a request to extradite him to the UK to face possible charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion.
British police have pieced together Salman’s movements as he constructed the bomb at properties around Manchester in the days leading up to the bombing.
Experts told The Independent that Salman could have made a lethal quantity of the explosive used in just 24 hours but that direct training or experience would have sped up the process.
Hashem, who left Manchester for Libya on the same day as Salman in April, is currently being held in Tripoli and allegedly told local investigators they started supporting Isis in 2015, “through the internet and some friends in the UK”.