Terror Inquiry: Crying Paramedic Slammed Firemen Who Turned Up Late to Attack, ‘Stood Around’

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Members of the public are escorted from the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police have confirmed 19 fatalities and at least …
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A sobbing paramedic who had just escorted a dying 18-year-old to hospital confronted a fireman to demand to know why his colleagues had just “stood around” rather than helping save lives at the Manchester bombing. Fire services had arrived at the scene almost two hours after the Islamist suicide attack because police had failed to inform them and the ambulance service of the incident.

The remarks were reported during the most recent sitting of the inquiry into the terror attack on the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22nd, 2017, committed by Islamist son of Libyan refugees Salman Abedi.

The attack had resulted in the deaths of 22 people and the injury of some 800 others, the assault being marked by its brutality as the jihadist intentionally targetted an event full of women, children, and families.

The inquiry had heard last week that on the night of the bombing, Manchester police had mistakenly declared Operation Plato, the codename for a terror attack involving a marauding gunman, and had also failed to notify the ambulance and fire services of the incident in order to arrange a coordinated response.

Retired duty command support officer Alan Topping told the inquiry panel on Tuesday that he was not aware of the 10:31 p.m. blast until around an hour later, and that upon arriving at Thompson Street fire station at 12:25 a.m., after dealing with a mill fire, he was shocked to find several fire trucks on the forecourt, “with a lot of firefighters hanging around, some lying down”, according to comments reported by the Daily Mail.

Mr Topping told the inquiry that while Manchester fire services had specialist teams to deal with serious injury victims, they would have had to have been there “within five to 10 minutes” to have had a meaningful impact on saving lives, but that by the time they had arrived some two hours later, they were “not really going to offer that much help”.

Manchester Central Fire Station was less than a mile away from the arena. However, watch manager Andrew Simister revealed on Tuesday that he and his teams were diverted to Philips Park Fire Station, a rendezvous point, and in the opposite direction to the blast. Mr Simister detailed that it was almost an hour until a Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) group manager arrived, who was greeted by enraged firefighters left standing around waiting for instruction. The firefighters were then sent back to Manchester Central, where joining a convoy with other trucks and a “sea of ambulances” they finally made it to the concert hall.

The inquiry also heard the remarks of a fireman who had been confronted by a crying paramedic, demanding to know where they had been while people were dying.

He said: “She came over crying, pleading with us to go over and help.

“Her exact words were, ‘what are you doing just stood around here? There are people dying, we need your help. I have just taken an 18-year-old girl in the back of an ambulance who died en route to hospital and you lot are just stood around.'”

Following the terror attack, Topping described how his colleagues were “in tears” for failing to attend the terror attack in time, and acknowledged that some turned their backs on their senior commander during the debrief.

Mr Topping said: “I don’t think it was a conscious decision, I think it was just when you’re not being answered, people show emotions differently, people were turning away, they were walking away, people were crying — I have never seen firefighters crying in a debrief, never — that’s the level of emotions what was going on.

“Firefighters felt such shame, disappointment, all the words which you could use, to describe why we didn’t attend that incident to help people.

“I felt ashamed to be a firefighter and felt like we let the people of Greater Manchester down. We were there to help people and we didn’t do our job.”

So far, the enquiry had revealed a series of failures from police, Arena security, and the intelligence services. Late last year, it was revealed that MI5 knew that Salman Abedi, who was well-known to the service, was interacting with known Islamic extremists in the weeks running up to the attack, including one serving time in prison.

Six months before, Greater Manchester Police were made aware of the inefficiencies of their planned responses to terror attacks, but did not act on them. British Transport Police and Community Support Officers had also failed to ensure consistent and adequate coverage of the venue’s environs, meaning that Abedi was able to walk into the Arena carrying a large, suspicious backpack without being stopped or searched.

Private security also brushed off the public’s concerns about Abedi, including after he was seen praying erratically in the foyer, with a security guard admitting that he did not question Abedi for his suspicious behaviour because he “was scared of being wrong and being branded a racist”.

The inquiry continues.

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