Ariana Grande Bombing: Veteran Who Treated Terror Blast Victims with Tourniquets Hailed as ‘Hero’ at Inquiry

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Emergency services arrive close to 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 50 injured. …
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A former soldier who used his training and experience to help coordinate survivors and first aid in the crucial first moments after a suicide bombing targeting children at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England in 2017, has been hailed as a hero by the public inquiry into the attack.

Retired Royal Military Police Staff Sergeant Darron Coster, who worked as a truck driver at the time of the May 22nd 2017 bombing had travelled to the Manchester Arena to pick up his son, who had attended the Ariana Grande concert with his girlfriend. Coster is one of the hundreds of witnesses in the process of being called by the Manchester Arena Enquiry, which has been hearing evidence for almost a year.

Having heard how the former soldier rushed towards the bomb blast at the Manchester Arena and set to work saving lives, Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders congratulated Coster on an “amazing job”, reflected on the gratitude of those he had helped, and said the man was a “hero”.

The BBC reports the former Royal Military Police Sergeant had served in Northern Ireland, leaving him familiar with the aftermath of bomb blasts and first aid to trauma victims. Speaking to the inquiry, Coster said he was waiting for his son when he heard a blast and saw a flash from the arena. Moving to inside the blast zone to offer assistance, Coster directed the efforts of witnesses inside to offer aid to survivors.

Explaining how he directed a rudimentary triage, telling people to give aid to those who needed it most, Coster told the inquiry: “I told them if people were not responding, you should leave them; if they could communicate, stay with them and provide them with reassurance. If you keep somebody talking you have got more chance of them staying alive.”

Noting the lack of preparedness of the Manchester Arena staff on the scene, the soldier said the security staff there when he arrived were nothing more than “teenagers with yellow tabards on” who “didn’t really know what they were doing”, the Manchester Evening News reports. He said: “From my initial interaction with the people wearing yellow, I believed that they didn’t have any sort of first aid training or if they had, they weren’t using it for whatever reason.”

Coster also used his military experience to directly treat victims who had been maimed by the bomb blast of radical Islamist Salman Abedi that injured over 1,000 people. He asked strangers to hand over their belts from their trousers, using them and a handbag strap to apply tourniquets to the limbs of seriously injured victims, to stop potentially fatal haemorrhagic bleeding.

The use of tourniquets — an improvised windlass that applies great pressure to a limb to slow and stop arterial bleeding after a traumatic injury — have long been controversial and even strongly discouraged by medical experts in Europe. Attitudes are changing, however, with medics recognising their value in specific circumstances identified as “prehospital” civilian trauma.

Coster did “several” circuits of the lobby where the bomb went off, giving aid where he could as he looked for people to help. After 35 minutes he felt he was no longer able to give aid, had discovered his son was not among the dead, and so left.

The official remarks to the inquiry follow others Coster made to a British newspaper about what he witnessed at the Manchester Arena attack. Speaking to the Sun on Sunday just a week after the attack in 2017, Coster said in his own words: “I was only there a minute and it went ‘bang’. I knew I had to find my son. I walked up the steps until I got right into where it happened.

“It was pandemonium. It was seconds after the bomb went off. I was in military police for 22 years so my training kicked in and I took control of stuff… I could see half of [the suicide bomber’s body] inside. I went over and closed the doors because I didn’t want anyone seeing that.”

Coster helped victims get in touch with their families. He told the paper: “here was a young lad on his knees he had taken shrapnel to his face and his eye and mouth and couldn’t talk and in a lot of pain. His mum was ringing his phone and I answered it and told her he’s alive but he can’t speak.”

Salman Abedi, who had been brought to the United Kingdom from Libya by a Royal Navy rescue mission at the onset of the Libyan civil war in 2014, detonated an acetone-derived homemade nail bomb at the Manchester Arena’s City Room in 2017, killing 22 people other than himself and injuring over 1,000 others. The inquiry into the attack has revealed a distressing litany of failures by multiple arms of the British state and other organisations with a duty to protect, in not preventing the attack and then failing to react to it well afterwards.

Abedi had come to the attention of the security services 18 times before he struck, yet officers in Britain’s security networks failed to ‘connect the dots’ and recognise him for the threat he was. MI5 knew Abedi had visited Islamist extremist Abdalraouf Abdallah in prison two times and was in “regular contact” with him for years, one of half a dozen people Abedi was in contact with being monitored by the security services.

Other flags were plans to travel to Syria, his contact details being found on the phone of an extremist, and the security services twice receiving intelligence on him. In these cases it appears that information tended to be viewed in isolation, leaving red flags to be dismissed as “possibly innocent”, rather than all the indications being viewed together to build a holistic picture of his activity.

There were also failures on the day of the attack before the backpack bomb was detonated. An unsupervised police officer who should have been patrolling the Arena missed the arrival of Abedi because she was taking an unauthorised two-hour lunch break to buy and eat a kebab.

Abedi’s appearance and behaviour at the Arena — carrying a large backpack and praying alone at the entrance to a children’s musical concert — was sufficiently suspicious that he was reported to security staff at the venue several times. 15 minutes before the bomb was detonated, a concerned parent was fobbed off by security guard Mohammed Agha. As Breitbart London reported in 2020:

Mr Wild, who was just five to six feet away from him, looked concerned and said to the security guard: “’Have you seen the guy up there? He’s totally out of it.’”

The witness said that Agha responded: “‘Yeah, yeah we’ve seen him, he’s fine.’”

“My overarching memory of that was it was really quite dismissive,” Mr McCallum said. “‘Don’t worry about him, we’ve seen him, it’s OK.’”

Another witness reported suspicious-looking Abedi to the kebab lunch police officer once she had returned from her break, but was again fobbed off, telling the inquiry: “They didn’t seem that interested.”

The officer told the inquiry she didn’t even remember the conversation with a member of the public taking place, but CCTV footage proved that it had.

Security guard Kyle Lawler, who was 18 at the time of the attack, told the inquiry that he had a “bad feeling” about Abedi when he saw him but was “unsure about what to do” and said he was worried about being called racist for doing something about a “fidgety and sweating” ethnic minority man at the venue.

The inquiry also claimed the initial response by the emergency services to the bombing was handled badly. Lacking information about what was happening, Manchester Police activated Operation Plato, a set of orders that assumed an active killer still at large and consequently kept first responders at a distance. While this theoretically prevents essential staff like paramedics from being killed in follow up attacks, it also prevents them from treating the wounded.

This situation was, however, turned on its head by poor communication. While the Manchester Fire Brigade received the Operation Plato order and held back their staff at a 500-meter cordon, the Ambulance Service were unaware it had been invoked, and reported to the scene. That paramedics were able to get in when they could against their official orders, the earlier Kerslake inquiry into the attack said, was “fortuitous”.

The situation led to scenes between paramedics leaving the scene and firefighters who didn’t fully deploy until two hours later due to communication failures, however. In one case, a crying paramedic who had treated a dying teenager confronted a fireman for standing by and doing nothing. After the attack, some firefighters were reported to be so furious at their senior officers for their orders, they turned their backs on them during a debriefing.

Perhaps the most harrowing admission of failure at the scene of the attack was the revelation in an expert report that eight-year-old Saffie Roussos could have survived her grave injuries had she been treated properly. Despite being conscious, calling for her mother, and talking to paramedics immediately after the attack, Roussos died — the report stated — after medics failed to stop her bleeding. For reasons that are unclear, nobody attempted to apply a tourniquet, a split, or perform a thoracotomy to prevent blood loss.

Her father said at the time of the report: “She could have been saved… How do we carry on living with this information? How can we carry on breathing with this information?”.

The inquiry continues.

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