A victim of the Manchester Arena attack who had to wait more than 40 minutes after the bombing to be evacuated from the scene told a paramedic: “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”, a public inquiry has heard.
John Atkinson, 28, was not taken from the blast site for 46 minutes, before being carried on a cardboard advertising hoarding to a casualty clearing station.
The care worker from Manchester was then left for a further 24 minutes “with little done for him” and it was 90 minutes after the bombing when he arrived in hospital, where he died of blood loss shortly afterwards.
“Timing is important for John Atkinson,” said John Cooper, QC, who is representing his family as well as 11 other families bereaved in the attack in May 2017. “The question that must be asked about him is: could he have survived?”
In his opening statement to the public inquiry in Manchester, Cooper set out a number of issues questioning the emergency services preparedness and response to the attack.
The first paramedic arrived on the scene in the City Rooms, the foyer of the Arena where Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb, 19 minutes after the blast and was the only one there for the first 40 minutes until two more arrived, the inquiry has heard.
Atkinson asked a paramedic: “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” The paramedic responded: “Not on my watch you’re not.”
However, there were no stretchers and Atkinson was carried on a cardboard advertising hoarding, which broke and he dropped from knee height onto a crash barrier, also being used to move the injured, before he was taken to hospital.
He was “virtually naked”, with makeshift tourniquets on his lower limbs and though conscious was described as looking “as waxy as hell”, said Cooper: “It was clear he had lost a lot of blood and the inquiry may conclude … that this is important evidence when it comes to survivability.”
Cooper questioned the lack of stretchers, medical and security resources at the arena and whether this was due to “penny pinching”.
And although the fire service was notified within three minutes of the bombing, it was two hours before the first firefighters were at the scene, Cooper said.
The public inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders, a retired high court judge, is investigating events before, during and after the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.
• This article was amended on 29 September 2020 because an earlier version incorrectly referred to Hashem Abedi when his brother Salman was the intended reference.