Fire service ‘out of the loop’ over Manchester terror attack

Emergency services on the scene of last May's attack. Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire.
Emergency services on the scene of last May's attack. Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

The fire service was “outside the loop” of the police and ambulance emergency response to the Manchester Arena terror attack leading to a two-hour delay, a major report said.

Firefighters, some who heard the bomb go off, and trained in first-aid and terror scenarios with specialist equipment, did not get permission to go to the scene until hours after the suicide bombing, despite the nearest station being half a mile away.

Manchester bombing victim Jane Tweddle, who was from Hartlepool.

Manchester bombing victim Jane Tweddle, who was from Hartlepool.

Five people from the North East were among 22 who died in the suicide bomb attack on May 22 last year at the MEN Arena including Hartlepool born Jane Tweddle, who was 51.

Several other people from town were at the Ariana Grande concert but escaped uninjured including mum and daughter Louise and Emily Anderson and teenager Elisha Claypole and her uncle Chris Hope.

“Strategic oversights” by police commanders led to confusion with other 999 services over whether a gunman was on the loose, and poor communications between Greater Manchester’s police and fire service meant the “valuable” assistance of fire crews was delayed by two hours and six minutes.

The 226-page report by Lord Bob Kerslake, was commissioned by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

No individuals are named but the report, published yesterday, makes 50 recommendations.

The panel of experts stated they were not able to say whether earlier arrival of the fire service would have “affected any casualty’s survivability”.

But it says fire fighters “would have been much better placed to support and, potentially, to accelerate the evacuation of casualties from the foyer,” if they had gone to the scene.

The police duty inspector in the Greater Manchester Police control room declared a pre-arranged plan and wrongly assumed other agencies were aware.

But he was praised for over-riding rules to allow paramedics and police already on scene to continue treating the injured even though they may be in danger of further attacks.

The senior fire officer on duty came to believe an “active shooter” scenario was still in play and stuck to rules which dictate keeping emergency responders 500 metres away from any suspected “hot” zone of danger from a potential armed terrorist.

As the fire officer could not get through on the phone to the police duty officer the response of the fire service was, “brought to the point of paralysis” added the report.