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Only one paramedic at scene of Manchester Arena bombing for first 40 minutes after explosion

ONLY one paramedic was at the scene of the Manchester Arena terror attack for the initial 40 minutes after the blast, a public inquiry heard.

Salman Abedi killed 22 people and injured hundreds more after detonating a suicide bomb as 14,000 music fans left the venue on May 22, 2017.

Now the official inquiry into the atrocity has heard how a lone paramedic arrived at the arena foyer 19 minutes after the deadly explosion.

Just two more paramedics managed to gain access to the area – about 20 minutes later – after the blast at an Ariana Grande concert.

At the time it was reported other paramedics were stopped from entering the building over fears there could be another explosive device nearby.

The revelations came as minute by minute images from the CCTV were screened at the inquiry showing emergency crews arriving at the arena.

Lead counsel Paul Greaney QC said the inquiry would now have to consider whether lives were lost as a result of a failure to co-ordinate the response of the emergency services.

Within 10 minutes of the bomb exploding at 10.31pm, 12 British Transport Police officers had dashed to the arena carrying first aid.

Casualties were carried out on makeshift stretchers with just one actual stretcher used, the inquiry heard.

A desperate 999 call from a member of the public treating a dying victim of the bombing was played to the inquiry.

Ronald Blake was trying to help stricken John Atkinson, 28, who had been caught in the blast.

Mr Blake rang within seconds of the blast as he tried to comfort Mr Atkinson and alert the emergency services.

“There’s been an explosion at Manchester Arena, in the foyer,” Mr Blake told the 999 call handler.

“There’s loads injured. It’s manic. Big explosion. I’m with a man now that’s injured.”

Mr Blake is then heard telling Mr Atkinson: “Alright mate. Don’t try moving.”

He returns to the call handler: “There’s about 30, 40 injured. I’m with a man that’s seriously injured. His legs really pumping.”

Mr Blake, who was at the arena to pick up his daughter after the show, was advised on the call to apply a tourniquet and keep on the line.

The rest of the eight-minute call was not played.

Some relatives of those who died wiped away tears or held hands to their faces as the call was played at the inquiry.

The call also raised questions about the response of the emergency services, the hearing was told, in particular the response of North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

Mr Greaney said the call, “literally seconds” after the explosion, alerted the emergency services to mass casualties and whether NWAS responded speedily and appropriately will have to be considered by the inquiry.

The first paramedic only arrived on scene 19 minutes after the blast.

The hearing was told only two more paramedics were ever deployed, 20 minutes later, to treat the injured in the City Rooms.

Mass casualty vehicles were not deployed by NWAS and neither were stretchers to treat help the 22 who died and the hundreds left injured.

Experts concluded the NWAS response to the attack was “less than adequate in specific aspects”.

The case of Mr Atkinson was highlighted as emergency crews came under the spotlight on the second day of the inquiry in Manchester.

The victim was only evacuated from the scene of the blast 46 minutes after Abedi detonated his home-made bomb packed with shrapnel in the City Room.

He was taken on a makeshift stretcher to a triage area of Victoria Station, which forms part of the arena venue site, and remained there for another 24 minutes.

However, chest compressions were only started on him one hour and 15 minutes after he was first injured in the blast.

He was one of the 22 who died in the attack.

Mr Greaney QC said: “The issue of John Atkinson’s survivability is, as we shall explore, a significant issue for the inquiry to consider.”

Mr Greaney said it was important to acknowledge the huge pressure and the “agony of the moment” emergency service personnel were working under at the time.

“Within the first 10 minutes, at least 12 BTP officers had reached or were in the immediate vicinity of the City Room,” he said.

“Those who entered offered assistance to the people they encountered.

“The inquiry may in due course conclude that in behaving as they did, they showed the very best of humanity, acting selflessly and without apparent regard for the dangers they themselves might be in in order to seek to help those who needed it.”

But he added: “What we must do is probe deeply, if there were mistakes or failings, they will need to be revealed so the bereaved families know the truth and real lessons are learned.”

He read from the statement of BTP officer Jessica Bullough, the first police officer on the scene – at the City Room, less than two minutes after the blast.

It said: “I can only describe it as a war zone. There was a number of bodies on the floor and blood everywhere. The whole place was smokey and in my words, carnage.”

She immediately sent a message on the radio saying “it’s definitely a bomb”, finding nuts and bolts scattered across the scene and repeated requests were made for ambulances and “as many resources as possible”.

But 24 minutes after the blast a radio message to control from another officer, a P Roach, was heard, with him saying: “You are going to hate me. Where’s our ambulances please?”

The controller replied: “We don’t know, we’re calling them again.”

Two hours and six minutes after the explosion the first fire engine arrived.

Mr Greaney added: “An important issue for the inquiry is how that came to pass and whether it made any difference.”

He said less than a year before the atrocity, Exercise Sherman had taken place, simulating a terror attack in the City Room, “the very thing that occurred” 10 months later.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were not aware “at an organisational level” about the concert and had not made plans or provision for the event, the public inquiry into the bombing heard.

Earlier we reported how a hero cop was alerted to Abedi “praying” 32 minutes before detonating his bomb.

The first day of an inquiry heard yesterday the sighting was one of two missed opportunities to stop Abedi unleashing carnage.

Security staff William Drysdale and Julie Merchant spotted Abedi around 9.41pm wearing a large backpack before he detonated a suicide bomb at an Ariana Grande concert.

Mr Drysdale believed the jihadist killer was “praying”, Paul Greaney, QC, counsel to the inquiry into the May, 2017 massacre, said.

Ms Merchant was seen on CCTV approaching PC Bullough and appearing to point towards Abedi.

PC Bullough was seen on CCTV speaking with Ms Merchant after the security worker approached her, but couldn’t remember the conversation.

The courageous PC was the first police officer to enter the arena’s foyer after the attack and was later awarded the Queen’s police medal for bravery.

Yesterday, the families of the 22 people who died in the bombing stood in silent remembrance as the names of the victims were recited at the opening of the hearings.

The bomber’s brother, Hashem Abedi, now 23, was last month jailed for life with a minimum 55 years before parole, for his part in the deadly bomb plot, which left hundreds of others injured.

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