A fire chief has made a public apology for firefighters being delayed two hours before joining in the response to the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.
Dawn Docx, the interim chief fire officer of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said she apologised unreservedly for the failures in the previous leadership of the service at the time of last May’s attack.
“It is clear that our response fell far short of what the people of Greater Manchester can expect,” she told a press conference following the publication of a report by Lord Bob Kerslake into the emergency response to the attack.
“I apologise unreservedly for that,” Ms Docx said. “There were clearly failures in leadership and poor decisions made.
“As a result firefighters themselves, desperate on the night to attend the incident, were let down by some of their senior colleagues.”
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made device at 10:31pm on 22 May last year, in the foyer of Manchester Arena as 14,000 people streamed out at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
The fire service was left “outside of the loop” of the police and ambulance emergency response, and firefighters – some of whom were trained in first-aid and terrorist scenarios with specialist equipment – did not get permission to go to the scene straight away.
“Strategic oversights” by police commanders led to confusion with other 999 services over whether an “active shooter” was on the loose and poor communications between Greater Manchester Police and the fire service meant the “valuable” assistance of fire crews was delayed by two hours and six minutes after the bombing, which left 22 dead and scores injured.
The 226-page report by Lord Kerslake, a former head of the Civil Service, was commissioned by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and concluded the emergency response was “overwhelmingly positive”. But Lord Kerslake described the failure by fire chiefs as “extraordinary” and “incredible”.
The then £155,000-a-year chief fire officer, Peter O’Reilly, has now retired, keeping his pension with no action taken against him.
Andy Burnham said no-one should bear all the responsibility for failures and no-one should be “scapegoated”.