Ambulance worker who rushed to Manchester bombing in charge of parking

Ambulance worker who rushed to the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing was put in charge of parking after offering to help, inquiry hears

  • Ambulance worker Derek Poland offered to help at Manchester Arena bombing
  • But he was put in charge of parking instead, inquiry into terror attack heard
  • Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people on May 22, 2017 after concert 

An ambulance operations manager offered to help out at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing was put in charge of parking instead, the public inquiry into the terror attack heard today.

Derek Poland from North West Ambulance Service was on call on May 22, 2017 and made his way to the arena following the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, the inquiry was told.

Mr Poland said when he arrived at the arena at 11pm he spoke to colleagues Dan Smith, who became the operational commander, and Paddy Ennis, who was the first paramedic to go into the City Room, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi had detonated the device which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others.

He agreed that it was an ‘unsatisfactory state of affairs’ that Mr Ennis was the only paramedic in the City Room for a period of time.

Mr Poland said he spoke to Mr Smith and offered to go into the area to support Mr Ennis but the offer was turned down and he was given the role of parking point officer.

Derek Poland, an operational commander from North West Ambulance Service, offered to help out at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing was put in charge of parking instead

Scene close to the Manchester Arena after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert 

He said: ‘I was needed to help set up command and control within the foyer.’

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said: ‘At the time, bearing in mind you knew Paddy Ennis wouldn’t be able to cope on his own, did you think that was a mistake?’

Mr Poland said: ‘No, I knew others would be coming shortly afterwards.’

The inquiry heard the Hazardous Area Response Team, which Mr Poland was expecting to join Mr Ennis, arrived at the scene at about 11.15pm and only two members of the team went to the City Room.

Mr Greaney asked: ‘You were highly experienced as a paramedic and senior within the organisation, was putting you in charge of parking the best use of your abilities and experience that night?’

Mr Poland replied: ‘I think so, yes, because we need to get the vehicles to scene, we need to get the vehicles away from scene, we need to make sure the teams are briefed properly so that they can go and treat the casualties.’

He said it was not satisfactory that only three paramedics entered the City Room that night.

He added: ‘It isn’t, I think it needed more within that room but they needed to go in there together.’

But he said none of the paramedics who went into the room made him aware that they were struggling or needed more help.

Mr Greaney said: ‘Is it not obvious someone in a command role ought to have gone into that room to find out how those three were coping?’

Mr Poland said yes.

He also told the inquiry there were problems with communications over the radios and mobile phones were used instead.

Handout photo issued by Greater Manchester Police of the CCTV image of Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017

The scene outside the arena after suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 innocent people

The inquiry previously heard how just three ambulance staff went into the scene of the Manchester Arena explosion because it was not declared safe to enter by firearms police.

Paddy Ennis was the first emergency responder from North West Ambulance Service to enter the City Room foyer in the aftermath of the attack – but only two colleagues joined him during the night.

Casualties were evacuated on crash barriers, noticeboards and tables by police officers, arena staff and members of the public following the suicide bombing, the inquiry heard. 

Mr Ennis told the inquiry that when firearms officers were deployed into the City Room they were ‘restricting the access into that area somewhat’.

He said: ‘The firearms police officers made it clear to me on several occasions they felt it was not yet declared safe.’ 

Shortly before Mr Ennis entered the foyer – more than 20 minutes after the explosion at 10.31pm – he was told by a police constable ‘every NWAS, they need every NWAS there’.

He went on to speak with Inspector Mike Smith, of Greater Manchester Police, who moments earlier had messaged on his radio: ‘Looks to me like a bomb’s gone off here, I would say there are about 30 casualties. 

Paddy Ennis (pictured) was the first emergency responder from North West Ambulance Service to enter the City Room foyer in the aftermath of the terror attack in May 2017

‘Could we have every available ambulance to me please?’

Mr Ennis said he completed his own ‘sweep’ to gain as much information as he could to pass back to his control room and followed his training in not treating anybody so that an ‘overall grip’ could be placed on managing the response in its initial stages.

He then told another police constable: ‘We have got ambulances coming soon, we have got as many as we can get into Victoria Station. 

‘In a minute we need to start thinking about trying to get some casualties moved out.

‘Basically at the moment it’s going to be providing first aid to those that are heavily bleeding, I have not got enough equipment… basic stuff until we get some people here’.

He left the City Room briefly and updated his line manager, Dan Smith, before he re-entered and was later joined at 11.15pm by two members of the Hazardous Area Response Team.

Mr Ennis said he did not believe he specifically told Mr Smith the police wanted further paramedic resources in the City Room but agreed with counsel to the inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, his boss would have known there were critically injured patients in the room.

He told the inquiry when firearms officers were deployed into the City Room they were ‘restricting the access into that area somewhat’.

Pictured: CCTV still image of Salman Abedi at Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, moments before he detonated his bomb which killed 22 people

He said: ‘The firearms police officers made it clear to me on several occasions they felt it was not yet declared safe in the City Room. 

‘I was aware despite the fact there were a number of people, myself included, but also lots of police officers working within the City Room, the firearms police were the ones who appeared to be in charge in terms of ensuring the safety of that area and made it clear, I felt, that that area was not yet deemed safe.

‘So I believed that was one of the reasons why it was not possible to deploy further paramedics as they arrived into that area.’

He accepted that no police officer, whether armed or not, indicated he should leave the City Room or that other paramedics would not be allowed in.

But he said: ‘There seemed to be a little bit of a lack of communication between the different branches of the police in terms of their interpretation of safety within the City Room.’

Mr Greaney asked: ‘Do you think there is a risk that over time, thinking over and over about your decision making, you have persuaded yourself that a safety concern inhibited your decision making when at the time it didn’t cross your mind?’

Mr Ennis replied: ‘I think it is fair to say that at no point was I worried about my own safety, however, I was aware and was made aware by the firearms police officers that they didn’t think that the area was safe.’

He later told Austin Welch, representing the 22 bereaved families: ‘The decision to request more paramedics into that area was one I was not comfortable with. 

‘The other thing as well is at that point there were no paramedics available and the HART team were the people that I felt would be the most appropriate to deploy into that area given that it was not yet declared safe.

‘In the meeting I had with Dan Smith I did, I believe, explain there were a number of agencies working in that area but what I didn’t do was specifically say ‘these people have taken this level of risk therefore we should deploy our staff into that area’. 

‘I didn’t do that, no.’

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