Police officer ‘frustrated’ at lack of paramedics at Manchester bomb scene, inquiry told

In the 40 minutes before paramedics arrived, Mr Martin assisted in transporting casualties on makeshift stretchers, such as hoardings and crash barriers

Ella Glover
Thursday 11 March 2021 23:40 GMT
Sgt Martin said officers felt ‘limited to the degree of first aid’ they could give
Sgt Martin said officers felt ‘limited to the degree of first aid’ they could give (PA)

A police officer who spent nearly 40 minutes moving casualties on makeshift stretchers from the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing was "frustrated" at the absence of paramedics and ambulance staff, an inquiry has heard.

Sergeant Matthew Martin, of British Transport Police, told the public inquiry into the 2017 terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert he only had limited first aid equipment which wasn’t enough to treat those injured.

Sgt Martin, who was a police constable at the time, said that he and his colleagues did not have the appropriate equipment to deal with severe shrapnel injuries.

He and his colleagues entered the City Room foyer in the Manchester Arena, where Salman Abedi detonated his device, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others, eight minutes after the attack.

It was 40 minutes until paramedics arrived on the scene, the inquiry heard. Only three paramedics entered the scene of the attack, two of which were members of North West Ambulance Service’s Hazard Area Response Team.

Sgt Martin said he went to find some more first aid kit before he spoke to a paramedic, who he escorted to the foyer.

In the 40 minutes before paramedics arrived, Sgt Martin assisted in transporting casualties on makeshift stretchers, such as hoardings and crash barriers, from the City Room down to the concourse at nearby Victoria rail station.

Sgt Martin had previously told the inquiry that using crash barriers in place of stretchers was difficult, because, "even without a casualty on [they] it are quite heavy to lift". He explained to inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders that proper stretchers would have seen casualties moved out "quicker and better".

He also sought to provide first aid and at one point used a set of leg restraints as an improvised tourniquet.

Sgt Martin told the inquiry: "I don’t know if it was just a personal frustration but going into an incident such as that and seeing casualties and seeing the type of injuries that the casualties had, certainly I felt the best people in that situation would have been medical experts, paramedics, and I don’t know the timeframe but it felt like a while before any paramedics were actually within the City Room."

In an earlier witness statement, he said: "I think we felt limited to the degree of first aid we can give. We are limited in the equipment we have to treat and you would obviously think that paramedics and ambulance staff have much better equipment.

"One of the real frustrations that we thought, if the ambulances were here that maybe we could start using stretchers, proper stretchers, to sort of move people out of the area."

Asked by counsel to the inquiry Nicholas de la Poer QC whether he thought anyone was in charge of the incident in the first hour or so, Sgt Martin replied: "In terms of was there a single point of contact, was there a person who was in obvious command of the overall situation, that didn’t appear the case to me."

Last Wednesday (3 March), the inquiry heard from retired fire officer Alan Topping, who said he and his fellow officers felt ashamed in the aftermath of the incident after being told not to attend the scene following reports a gunman was at large.

Fire engines did not attend the scene of the attack until two hours into the incident.

Mr Topping said: “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.”

Mr Topping told the inquiry that senior colleagues waiting at the station said their bosses were not allowing them to attend.

In February, the public inquiry also heard that police were warned about their inadequate attack response plans in November 2016, a mere six months before the incident at the Manchester Arena. 

A national review concluded there was a risk of a force duty officer becoming overwhelmed in the event a marauding firearms attack was declared, which police experts agree did occur on the night of the incident, and which was further exemplified in Mr Martin’s account of the incident.

Andrew Buchan, the associate inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), gave evidence on Monday and said it found that while GMP’s Plato plan was “very tactically focused”, it did not go into detail about working with other agencies.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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