Firefighters took more than two hours to arrive at Manchester bombing

Firefighters took more than two hours to arrive on scene of Manchester bombing in an ‘inadequate and ineffective’ response, inquiry hears

  • Fire service had an ‘inadequate and ineffective’ response to the bombing 
  • Training raised concerns about how fire service and police worked together
  • Inquiry heard harrowing final moments of the 22 victims killed in terror attack 

The fire service had an ‘inadequate and ineffective’ response to the Manchester Arena bombing, experts told a public inquiry today.  

Training exercises raised ‘serious concerns’ about how the fire service and police worked together ahead of the terror attack but lessons were not learned, the inquiry has heard.

On the night, the fire service decided to ‘muster’ at their station three miles from the scene, and did not arrive at the arena until two hours and six minutes after the explosion, by which time all the casualties had been evacuated. 

Today’s inquiry has also heard the harrowing final moments of the 22 people killed in the atrocity.   

Marcin Klis, 42, and his wife and Angelika, 39, were waiting to pick up their children from the Ariana Grande concert, ‘with their arms around one another.’

The couple were just four metres away from the blast and suffered ‘unsurvivable’ injuries. 

Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, was asked by her friend what her favourite song was as they walked, but the explosion detonated before she could answer, the inquiry heard.

On the night, the fire service decided to ‘muster’ at their station three miles from the scene, and did not arrive at the arena until two hours and six minutes after the explosion. Pictured, emergency services at the scene


Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, (left) said the exercise ‘raised serious concerns about the interaction between police commanders and their communications with other responding emergency services.’ The public inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders (right) at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, is looking at events before, during and after the suicide bombing by jihadist Salman Abedi at the end of an Ariana Grande concer


Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders 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

An exercise called Winchester Accord was held in May 2016 at the Trafford Shopping complex showed up failings which mirrored the night of the attack.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said the exercise ‘raised serious concerns about the interaction between police commanders and their communications with other responding emergency services.’

It had 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.

It also identified concerns about the communication of key information and three-way communications in the early phases of an incident, including where was safe to use as a rendezvous point. 

Experts commissioned by the inquiry said the ‘learning points’ of the Winchester Accord exercise ‘do not appear to have been rectified immediately by GMFRS.

They added: ‘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 GMP’ in the event of a marauding terrorist firearms attack, which the exercise had replicated.

Mr Greaney said the inquiry ‘will need to explore whether that is as disturbing as it seems.’

‘Whether lessons were learned from exercises is an important issue for the inquiry to explore.’

The experts said the response of the fire service in the first two hours of May 22 was ‘inadequate and ineffective.’


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

GMFRS staff did not test and question the information they were receiving and the impact of unqualified and untested information led to ‘poor decision making.’

A ‘systemic failure’ was caused by choosing a ‘distant and detached’ rendezvous point and the discounting of other options.

There was also an ‘absence of strategic direction and operational grip’ because no one took on important roles while a station manager was travelling from his home to the rendezvous point.

The effect was that the fire and rescue service were ‘unable to render assistance to casualties or take part in joint working,’ the experts said.

That meant that specialist resources, including specialist response team and technical rescue units with enhanced first aid equipment, such as trauma dressings and rescue stretchers known as skeds were not deployed to the scene.

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