Manchester Arena inquiry hears 999 call from man trying to help victim of blast


A desperate 999 call from a member of the public treating a dying victim of the Manchester Arena bombing was played on the second day of the public inquiry into the attack.

Ronald Blake was trying to help stricken John Atkinson, 28, who had been caught in the blast carried out by suicide bomber Salman Abedi in the City Rooms, the foyer of the arena.

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 Ariana Grande show that night, 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 hearing room in central Manchester. Mr Atkinson’s family excused themselves from hearing the call.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said Mr Blake’s conduct “showed the best of our community”.

But 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”.

Abedi, 22, detonated his shrapnel-packed home-made bomb at 10.31pm on May 22 2017 as hundreds of youngsters left the pop concert, many to meet parents waiting in the foyer to collect them. His brother Hashem was jailed for life last month with a minimum 55 years before parole for his part in the plot.

Sir John Saunders is chairing the public inquiry, expected to run into spring 2021, which will look at events before, during and after the bombing, including the role of the emergency services.

The inquiry was adjourned until Wednesday morning.