Manchester bombing: Victim, 28, may have survived if he hadn't waited an hour for treatment, inquiry told

September 09, 2020

One of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing may have survived his injuries if he had not waited nearly an hour for medical treatment, a public inquiry has heard.

John Atkinson, 28, suffered a heart attack one hour and 17 minutes after the explosion following blood loss from leg and abdominal wounds.

He was only treated by paramedics after being carried out of the venue by members of the public on a stretcher made from advertising hoardings and a metal barrier, the inquiry into the atrocity was told on Wednesday.

Only one stretcher was brought inside the arena to help with evacuations, which forced members of the public to use cardboard and crowd control barriers to carry victims from the scene.

Mr Atkinson, a healthcare assistant who worked with autistic adults, was 6m (20ft) away from Salman Abedi when he set off a suicide bomb in the City Room foyer of the arena at 10.31pm on 22 May 2017.

He managed to drag himself towards an exit, where he was helped by a member of the public called Ronald Blake, who was among the first people to dial 999, seconds after the blast, the inquiry heard.

An emergency call handler talked Mr Blake through how to put a tourniquet on Mr Atkinson's leg using his belt, and he stayed with him for "just short of an hour" until he was treated by paramedics, Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry said.

Mr Atkinson reached them on the makeshift stretcher at 11.25pm - just under an hour after the blast - before he suffered a heart attack at 11.48pm.

He was taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary at 11.59pm, arriving seven minutes later, but was declared dead at 12.24am.

The 28-year-old had sustained very severe leg and abdominal injuries and suffered a cardiac arrest due to inadequate blood filling his circulatory system, the inquiry heard.

A panel of experts on explosion injuries, instructed by the inquiry, said his were "potentially survivable".

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry heard how lessons could have been learned to help better respond to the tragedy in light of a similar training exercise carried out in Manchester a year before the attack.

The Winchester Accord exercise was held at the city's Trafford shopping centre in May 2016 and raised "serious concerns about the interaction between police commanders and their communications with other responding emergency services," Mr Greaney told the inquiry.

The failings of the drill mirrored the response to the Ariana Grande concert attack, with experts claiming the fire service's actions were "inadequate and ineffective".

They led to "significant delays" in the deployment of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) resources to the scene of the bombing, the hearing was told.

The fire brigade did not arrive for two hours and six minutes after the blast, by which time all the casualties had been evacuated, the inquiry heard.

Experts commissioned by the inquiry said "learning points" of the exercise were not taken on board, adding: "Indeed, rather than being clarified and resolved, they appear to have led to negative expectation on the part of GMFRS officers as to what to expect" from police in the event of a terrorist attack, which the exercise had replicated.

They also referred to "poor decision making" by GMFRS and an "absence of strategic direction and operational grip", because no one took on any important roles while a station manager travelled from his home to the designated rendez-vous point.

The effect was that the fire service was "unable to render assistance to casualties or take part in joint working," the experts said.

It also meant that specialist resources, including units with enhanced first aid equipment, were not deployed to the scene. The inquiry continues.

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