Manchester Arena bomb victim evacuated more than 40 minutes after blast

A victim of the Manchester Arena bombing was only evacuated from the scene more than 40 minutes after the explosion and chest compressions only started on him more than an hour later, the public inquiry into the attack has heard.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:30 am
Sir John Saunders, Chair of the Inquiry and Sophie Cartwright, Deputy Council, arrive at Manchester Magistrates Court for the start of the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The treatment of John Atkinson, 28, was highlighted as the response of the emergency services came under the spotlight on the second day of the inquiry in Manchester.

Mr Atkinson was only evacuated from the scene of the blast 46 minutes after suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made bomb packed with shrapnel in the City Room, the foyer of the arena, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

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Mr Atkinson was taken on a makeshift stretcher to a triage area of Victoria Station, which forms part of the arena venue site, and remained there for another 24 minutes. But chest compressions were only started on him one hour and 15 minutes after he was first injured in the blast.

He was one of the 22 murdered and hundreds injured in the attack on 22 May 2017.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said: “The issue of John Atkinson’s survivability is, as we shall explore, a significant issue for the inquiry to consider.”

The inquiry also heard:

l The first paramedic arrived on scene in the City Room 19 minutes after the blast and was the only one there for the first 40 minutes;

l Only one stretcher was used during the incident, with the hundreds of others injured being ferried using crash barriers, makeshift carriers or carried in arms;

l The fire service, which did have stretchers, only arrived on scene two hours and six minutes after the bomb went off:

l A terror training exercise, matching the real thing, had taken place in the City Room less than a year before the bombing.

Mr Greaney said it was important to acknowledge the huge pressure and the “agony of the moment” emergency service personnel were working under at the time. “Within the first ten minutes, at least 12 BTP (British Transport Police) officers had reached or were in the immediate vicinity of the City Room,” he said. “Those who entered offered assistance to the people they encountered. The inquiry may in due course conclude that in behaving as they did, they showed the very best of humanity, acting selflessly.”

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