Manchester terror victim waited 116 minutes for chest compressions

Manchester Arena terror attack victim didn’t receive chest compressions for 116 minutes – by which time he was already dead, inquiry hears

  • John Atkinson, 28, did not receive chest compressions for 76 minutes after blast 
  • Some 14,000 fans were at concert when suicide bomber detonated his device 
  • A public inquiry will determine whether prompt treatment could have saved him
  • The inquiry heard there were failings in the response to the terrorist attack  

Paramedics  took almost 20 minutes to arrive following the Manchester Arena bomb explosion and only three entered the blast zone to treat casualties, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

Just one ambulance worker went into the City Room foyer – where Salman Abedi, 22, had detonated his backpack device – in the first 40 minutes and the fire brigade didn’t arrive until more than two hours later.

In the case of at least one victim, 28-year-old John Atkinson, ‘the issue of survivability’ – whether he would have lived had he been treated sooner – will need to be examined, Paul Greaney QC said.

He wasn’t evacuated from the scene for more than 40 minutes and chest compressions only began an hour and 16 minutes later, but by then it was too late. Mr Atkinson, a support worker, died along with 21 other victims. 

Ronald Blake was trying to help stricken John Atkinson, 28, (pictured) who had been caught in the blast carried out by suicide bomber Salman Abedi in the City Rooms, the foyer of the arena when he made the desparate phone call for help

The second day of the public inquiry into the attack on the Manchester Arena in 2017 heard how seconds after the blast, Mr Blake phone police saying: ‘There’s loads injured. It’s manic. Big explosion. I’m with a man now that’s injured’

On the second day of the hearing, it emerged that a catalogue of failings have been identified by experts relating to the emergency response by police, ambulance and fire service following the attack on May 22, 2017.

Mr Greaney said that, as the minutes ticked by after the 10.31pm explosion, police officers became more and more frustrated about the lack of ambulances and paramedics. Several begged their control rooms to send ‘more ambos’ to the City Room, which was described as a ‘war zone’ by one officer.

Instead, the responsibility for treating casualties was left to 11 first aiders working at the venue for a private firm contracted by owners SMG. Many of them had merely a ‘first aid at work’ qualification and were ill-equipped to deal with a major incident, the hearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court was told.

Mr Greaney said it wasn’t until 10.49pm that advanced paramedic Patrick Ennis, who worked for the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), arrived after ‘self-deploying’ when he heard about the attack. Another five paramedics arrived shortly after but only Mr Ennis immediately entered the City Room to treat casualties.

It wasn’t until 11.14pm that two more specialist ambulance staff were sent into the blast zone. The delays meant that only one proper stretcher was used to evacuate the injured. 

Sir John said: ‘Salman Abedi (left) blew himself up in the explosion but he intended as many people as possible would die with him.’ Right: A CCTV image of Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated his bomb

Salman Abedi was seen ‘adjusting wiring’ underneath his clothes in the moments leading up to the devastating terror attack which left 22 people dead on May 22, 2017

Advice was also given by Mr Ennis to the private medical staff to prioritise those with breathing problems or who were bleeding profusely and not to try to resuscitate anyone in cardiac arrest.

That should be kept ‘squarely in mind’ in Mr Atkinson’s case, Mr Greaney said. ‘Only three NWAS paramedics ever entered the City Room,’ he added. ‘An important thing for the inquiry to consider will be why that was and if it was reasonable.’

A distressing 999 call was played from a member of the public who comforted Mr Atkinson for almost an hour.

Ron Blake, who was waiting for his daughter to come out of the Ariana Grande concert, told the operator that Mr Atkinson was ‘really injured’ with his ‘leg pumping’ with blood.

Mr Atkinson was eventually evacuated from the City Room at 11.17pm. But he went into cardiac arrest and attempts at resuscitation did not begin until 11.47pm – more than an hour and 16 minutes after the explosion.

Another victim who died, Georgina Callander, 18, was also not taken to a waiting ambulance until 11.26pm.

And it was only at 12.37am that three vehicles from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service arrived. Mr Greaney said: ‘An important part of the inquiry is to look at how that came to pass and whether it made any difference.’

But he said the purpose of the inquiry was not to ‘vilify’ those who tried their best to help in the immediate aftermath.

He admitted they were under ‘enormous pressure’ but insisted it was vital that mistakes were highlighted to help the bereaved families find ‘the truth’ so lessons could be learned. 

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