Wednesday, 5 Oct 2022

Manchester Arena bombing: Fire chief apologises for ‘significant’ control room failures

The head of the fire control room on the night of the Manchester Arena bombing has apologised for “significant failures” that saw operators fail to pass on key information to commanders.

Twenty-two men, women and children lost their lives in the suicide bombing attack by Salman Abedi at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017.

The Manchester Arena inquiry previously heard that firefighters did not turn up for more than two hours after the attack partly because senior officers could not get through to the police force duty officer.

Instead, commanders sent fire engines to a rendezvous point three miles from the arena and they only arrived more than two hours after the attack, the inquiry was told.

The operators in the control room were aware that the ambulance service had gone to the arena but did not tell fire commanders.

As a result, police and members of the public were left to carry casualties from the scene of the explosion on makeshift stretchers made from advertising hoardings.

Sarah-Jane Wilson, head of North West Fire Control (NWFC), told the inquiry: “It has become very clear to me that on the night of the attack NWFC did not manage communications in the way that would have been expected of them by the public and by the fire service.

“The control room was responsible for significant failures in the management of information throughout that night, particularly in relation to the recording of information, the passing of information to the fire service and other agencies and also in understanding the significance of the information that was in their hands.”

Ms Wilson said she “stood by” the decision made by the control room not to mobilise to the arena and to ask for the advice of the duty NILO fire liaison officer.

“That is what I would have done in their circumstances,” she said.

But Ms Wilson added: “The communication failures which followed are not in any way excusable.

“I want to say personally and on behalf of the control room that I deeply regret these failures and I want to unreservedly and publicly apologise to the families and to the fire and rescue service for what we failed to do that night.”

The inquiry was told that for three years after the previous head of NWFC left, it had no one in charge apart from two executive directors.

Ms Wilson, who was senior operations manager, was eventually appointed to the job in October 2016, seven months before the attack.

The inquiry continues.

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