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Families of Manchester Arena terror attack victims finally getting some answers

The second report into the Manchester Arena bombings have left many who were involved without a sense of closure as the failure of emergency services comes to light

We all remember where we were on the 22nd of May 2017 when news began to emerge of a sickening attack on innocent gig-goers at the Manchester arena.

With 22 people dead, and over 1000 injured, the barbarity and cowardice of the act shocked and sickened Manchester and the world to our core.

Last week, the second part of Sir John Saunders report which examines the role of emergency services has been released.

This report found that serious and catastrophic mistakes in the response to deadly terrorist attack caused at least one unnecessary death, the tragic passing of John Atkinson.

Sir John wrote in his report that although everyone involved in the emergency response ‘no doubt thought they were doing their best, in some cases, their best was not good enough.’

It is a damning report and one that will bring no peace to the families who tragically lost loved ones.

The report states that ‘significant aspects’ of the response ‘went wrong’, leading to the death of John Atkinson.

“Some of what went wrong had serious and, in the case of John Atkinson, fatal consequences for those directly affected by the explosion,” Sir John said.

A member of the public, Ron Blake, had to make a tourniquet with his wife’s belt as Mr Atkinson lay bleeding in tremendous pain for 50 minutes.

Mr Atkinson told a police officer at the scene he knew he was going to die.

Mr Atkinson suffered a cardiac arrest one hour and 16 minutes after the blast in a casualty clearing area, the city room, which has come under much scrutiny in the report for not being fully staffed.

A Statement from John Atkinson’s Family said:

“John was our son, brother, uncle, and friend. Everyone who knew him loved being around him. He always put others first. As today’s report says, his working life was spent helping those in care and his kindness and generosity were evident for all to see.

“He lit up our lives and there is less laughter in the world without him. Since his passing our lives have been shattered.

“The inquiry has answered questions about John’s death. It is now clear beyond doubt on the night he was failed at every stage. By private medical health providers ET UK and the emergency services. It is crystal clear due to these failings he died from injuries that he could and should have survived.

“Ronald Blake acted heroically to try and save John. We want to say thank you again for all he did last night.

“The paramedics who could have saved him should have been at the scene much quicker.

“He was left, dying, without his dignity, on the floor when it should have been obvious to medics that he needed to get straight to hospital.”

“This should simply never have been allowed to happen,” his family added in a statement.

“We will be watching to see what happens now. The apology from North West ambulance service means nothing unless they act rapidly on this report to ensure that no family has to go through this horrific ordeal again.

“John will always be in our thoughts and hearts.”

The report highlights myriad failures of the emergency response and said ‘avoidable mistakes had been made’.

Sir John states in the ‘golden hour’ after the bomb went off – none of the emergency responses had realised the scale of the situation and responded appropriately.

There was a lack of co-ordination, with Greater Manchester Police, Northwest Ambulance Service and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service  making separate risk assessments; reaching different conclusions.

This confused the response.

Greater Manchester Police have issued a heartfelt apology into the failings on the night.

They described their response to the incident as ‘inadequate’.

In a statement from Chief Constable Stephan Watson, he lamented the police’s failure to ‘plan effectively’, going on to say their actions that night were ‘not good enough’.

The statement reads: “Our failure to effect proper command and control of the incident, from the outset, undermined an effective multi-agency response to a dreadful set of circumstances.

“We did not act upon learning from previous exercises which could have reduced the burden or impact felt on the Force Duty Officer.

“Poor communications, poor planning, inadequate training, and shortcomings in strategic leadership all played a part in our failure.”

Sir John also found that the other 20 victims suffered injuries that they could not have survived and he was “sure that inadequacies in the response did not fail to prevent their deaths”.

North West ambulance service have also apologised for their response on the night.

Chief Executive Daren Mochrie said: “The number of responders treating people in the City Room has been a great concern to many and is frequently mentioned in the report.

“We accept that more of our staff should have been deployed into the City Room to help triage patients and manage their evacuation.

“What also produces deep regret – is that our ability to work together as blue light partners fell well short of the standards, we all expected.

“The principles of multi-agency working are incredibly important to the way we deal with major incidents. It should never have broken down so quickly and so drastically.”

They vowed to right the wrongs highlighted in the report, and to ensure better collaboration with blue light partners in future.

Kim Harrison, who represents 11 of the victims families, said the report had given credence to her clients ‘greatest fears’ about the failings of the emergency services.

She said that it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that people were left to die.

She said: “The complete and utter failure of the government and emergency services to recognise [the] mistakes [made after the 7/7 bombings in 2005] is wholly unacceptable.

You can read the full reports from the night by clicking here.

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