A paramedic deployed to Manchester Arena after the bombing told of ‘chaos and confusion’ at the scene, and said firefighters ‘needed to be there with us that night’.
Helen Mottram, who called her firefighter husband ‘concerned to know’ where fire crews were, said she went from ‘patient to patient to patient’ inside Manchester Victoria railway station as a triage officer.
Mrs Mottram told the public inquiry on Wednesday over video-link that a ‘cascade’ of casualties, some critically injured, were brought down from the City Room blast area to the station’s concourse, where a ‘casualty clearing station’ was set up.
There were 38 in total, the inquiry heard.
It’s understood other casualties were taken out of the City Room via different routes or means or in some cases, went directly to hospital.
Of the 38, 26 were carried down by police and other responders on makeshift stretchers of billboards and metal barrier railings.
Only one medical stretcher was used.
Mrs Mottram, who the inquiry heard volunteered to enter the railway station by putting her hand up during an on-scene briefing, started to work inside at 11.17pm – 46 minutes after the blast.
In her first five minutes there, six patients of ‘priority one and two’ were brought down.
The last patient was extricated at 11.42pm.
In the 25 minutes from Mrs Mottram starting work to the recovery of the last casualty, 28 people were brought down, the inquiry was told.
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She said: “Nobody was missed. We had senior paramedics with the most critically ill patients straight away.”
But she said she expected firefighters to be there helping police with the casualties – crews were held back from the Arena for more than two hours.
“That was definitely not what was happening,” Mrs Mottram said.
“It was such a quick cascade of patients. I was so focused on the patients and not missing anyone.
“But yes I would have thought Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service would have been very much part of that operation.
“It is a rescue service. They are not just a fire brigade. They needed to be there with us that night.
“My main concern was receiving the patients.
“I was extremely grateful at how resourceful these police officers were in fetching the patients in such a timely manner.”
Mrs Mottram arrived in an ambulance at Manchester Central fire station on Thompson Street and said she told crews to stock up on tourniquets, gloves and bandages.
Her crew was outside the Arena at 11.09pm.
She described the initial scene as ‘chaos and confusion’.
“There were lots of injured patients on the pavement at that stage,” she said.
NWAS operations manager, Derek Poland, gave a briefing in which he said the scene ‘couldn’t be guaranteed safe’ and asked for volunteers, the inquiry was told. Mrs Mottram said: “I put my hand straight up.”
She agreed she was ‘presented with a scene of dreadful injury’ and told how she began to triage casualties.
Asked if there was an ‘element of chaos’ to what was happening, she said: “Of course.
“There had just been a terrorist attack, we were dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack, so obviously there was chaos and confusion everywhere. I was playing catch up with triaging….we were inundated with patients.”
Mrs Mottram said there were insufficient numbers of ambulance service staff, initially, to treat the number of casualties.
But she said: “We were quickly joined by a steady flow of more personnel throughout the incident. I couldn’t tell you numbers, I was so focused on my role.”
The suicide bomb terrorist attack happened on May 22, 2017, after an Ariana Grande concert killed 22 people including children, the youngest of whom was eight.
More than 260 people were physically injured, with 160 requiring hospital treatment.
Mrs Mottram said in her view, JESIP (the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme), in which the main emergency services work together to form a unified response to a major incident, hadn’t worked on the night.
Asked why, she said: “Because there didn’t seem to be any official communication with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.”
Ronald Schanck, a Hazardous Area Response Team paramedic team leader, and his team attended the scene from Merseyside and they also gathered at the fire station.
The inquiry heard they attended the Arena before Manchester fire crews did.
Mr Schanck told the inquiry Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service firefighters waiting at the station ‘stood there with shock on their faces’ when he told them he and his team were being mobilised to the Arena.
“They all stood there with their mouths open,” he said. “They were standing there outside the station in disbelief.”