Who were the Manchester Arena victims who might have lived?

Inquiry has found outcome for some victims might have been different but for ‘inadequacies’ in emergency response

John Atkinson

A care worker for young autistic adults, John Atkinson received tickets to the Ariana Grande concert as a Christmas present. He attended with his lifelong friend Gemma O’Donnell and they had a fantastic time.

When Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb in the City Room of Manchester Arena, 28-year-old Atkinson was about 6 metres away. He received serious injuries, principally to his legs, and attempted to drag himself across the floor to seek help. He left an obvious trail of blood behind him.

Ronald Blake, the first member of the public to call 999 to report the attack, was advised to apply a tourniquet to Atkinson’s right leg, which he did during the call using his wife’s belt. To help stem blood loss, police-issue leg restraints were applied around the top of both of his legs about 43 minutes after the explosion.

Atkinson remained in the City Room for 47 minutes after the attack and was not treated by paramedics during that time. He was conscious throughout, asking repeatedly if he was going to die.

John Atkinson
John Atkinson was left untreated for 47 minutes after the attack. Photograph: Facebook

At 11.16pm, he was placed on to an advertising hoarding and dragged from the City Room. Soon, the hoarding broke and he was lifted on to a metal barrier and carried towards the casualty clearing station where paramedics were treating the injured.

At 11.47pm, while still waiting to be treated in the clearing station, he went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics and a doctor gave CPR and he was put into an ambulance. When he arrived at Manchester Royal Infirmary at 12.06am he was again in cardiac arrest. He was taken to the resuscitation room and given advanced life support. This was unsuccessful and he was declared dead by the treating clinicians at 12.24am on 23 May 2017.

Two experts gave evidence to the inquiry into the atrocity, which concluded that his death was caused by the leg injuries, which he could have survived if given prompt and expert medical treatment.

On Thursday, Atkinson’s family thanked Blake for his “heroic” attempts to save his life. “However, the medical tourniquets John needed were not made available and the paramedics who could have saved him should have been at the scene much sooner,” they said in a statement.

“Even after John was moved from the City Room to the casualty clearing station, further delays meant that he was not prioritised for evacuation to hospital. 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.

“As we know from witnesses, John kept asking if he was going to die. John must have known that he was dying and the pain that causes us is too great to put into words.”

Saffie‐Rose Roussos

Eight-year-old Saffie‐Rose Roussos also received tickets to the concert as a Christmas gift. She was ecstatic to finally be going to see her idol along with her mother, Lisa, and big sister, Ashlee.

Lisa told the inquiry she remembered her daughter as a “pure, gentle, beautiful soul who touched people’s hearts with her kindness and infected people with her smile”.

As the concert came to an end, Lisa said, she decided to stay for the encore. After the final song, they made their way out of the arena bowl. Saffie‐Rose was pulling her mother’s left hand, eager to see her father and brother, who were picking them up. Lisa Roussos’s last memory of Saffie‐Rose before the explosion was of being pulled along by her, their arms outstretched.

Saffie-Rose was about 5 metres away from Abedi when he detonated his deadly nailbomb. Witnesses recalled seeing her briefly pushing herself up off the floor with her arms and raising her left arm in the immediate aftermath.

She remained in the City Room for 26 minutes. During that time, she drifted in and out of consciousness and was able to give her name to a member of the public. Members of the public, arena first aiders, Showsec security staff and police officers – but not paramedics – helped her but no tourniquets or leg splints were applied to her injuries.

At 10.56pm, while she was still conscious, police officers and two members of the public placed Saffie‐Rose on to an advertising hoarding and she was put into an ambulance. At 11.17pm, 46 minutes after the detonation, the ambulance left for the Royal Manchester children’s hospital. She was declared dead at 11.40pm.

Expert evidence suggested her death had been caused by the multiple injuries. Whether those injuries made her death inevitable was “a complex issue”, said Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chair, who concluded there was “only a remote possibility that she could have survived with different treatment and care”.

Nicola Brook, a solicitor from Broudie Jackson Canter who represents the family of Saffie-Rose, said: “Saffie’s parents, Andrew and Lisa, have pushed to get answers about what happened to their beautiful daughter over five and a half incredibly traumatic years. After initially believing the blast had killed Saffie instantly, the pain of that loss was compounded by learning that she had lived for over an hour.”

She added: “This damning report reveals what the families knew all along – that all the organisations meant to protect their loved ones failed on an enormous and unfathomable scale.”


Helen Pidd North of England editor

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