Fire crews “ashamed” and “angry” following Manchester Arena bombing

Senior officer says firefighters felt they’d let people down

“Massive Error”

A retired senior officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) says the Manchester Arena bombing shook firefighters to their core.

Alan Topping told the inquiry that officers felt both “ashamed” and “angry” after being held back following the attack.

The bombing after an Ariana Grande concert claimed the lives of 22 people back in May 2017.

The first fire engine didn’t arrive at the scene until two hours after the explosion.

On the night of the attack, GMFRS crews went to Philips Park Fire Station, two miles (3km) from the arena.

The watch manager Andrew Simister told the inquiry that it was a “massive decision error”.

 “We wanted to go to the arena because that’s our job, ride a fire engine. We have got first aid capabilities. After an explosion, people are in distress, and it’s our job to go.

“I thought we were going there (Philips Park) because they had a plan. There was no plan,” says Simister.

Reduced to tears

A counsel to the inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, read a statement from a firefighter during testimony.

In the statement, the firefighter recalled that a paramedic was “pleading with us to go and help”.

In tears, the paramedic asked firefighters why they “stood around” at the station instead of helping the wounded on site.

Mr Topping was a group manager at GMFRS at the time of the tragedy.

He says he was shocked to find “a lot of firefighters hanging around” Philips Park Fire Station.

“They were impatient, and they wanted to go,” he said.

Following the attack, Mr Topping said he went to a de-briefing where some firefighters had turned their backs on a senior officer who couldn’t explain why they got held back.

He says firefighters felt incredible “shame and disappointment”.

 “I had never seen firefighters cry at a de-brief,” said Topping.

“We didn’t respond, and we didn’t do our jobs to make a difference. It took me a couple of days to put my shirt back on; such was the strength of my feelings.

“I felt ashamed to be a firefighter. I felt we had let the people of Greater Manchester down.”

No Improvement?

Previously the inquiry heard that police declared a marauding terrorist firearm attack amid erroneous reports of gunfire.

However, they failed to inform the fire and ambulance service about this.

Mr Topping said that senior incident commanders weren’t working well together and were “too secretive”.

When Mr Topping arrived at the scene after the attack, he said he felt like he was “gate-crashing”.

Mr Topping said when he retired in September, he didn’t think the service had improved sufficiently.

Topping worked with GMFRS for 32 years. (JSL).

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