An ambulance manager who offered to help at the Manchester Arena bombing site was instead put in charge of parking, the public inquiry into the terror attack learned today.
Derek Polen of the North West Ambulance Service was on call on May 22, 2017, and made his way to the arena after the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, the investigation was told.
Mr Polen said that when he arrived at the arena at 11 p.m., he spoke with colleagues Dan Smith, who became the operations commander, and Paddy Ennis, who was the first paramedic to enter the City Room, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi attacked the device. detonated that killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others.
He agreed that it was an “unsatisfactory state of affairs” for Mr. Ennis to be the only paramedic in the City Chamber for some time.
Mr Polen said he had spoken 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 a parking attendant.
Derek Polen, an operations commander for the North West Ambulance Service, volunteered to assist at the Manchester Arena bombing site, instead being put in charge of parking
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 in the foyer.”
Paul Greaney QC, counsel for the investigation, said: ‘At the time, when you consider that you knew Paddy Ennis couldn’t handle it alone, did you think that was a mistake?’
Mr Polen said: ‘No, I knew others would come shortly after.’
The inquiry learned that the Hazardous Area Response Team, which Mr Poland expected to join Mr Ennis, was on the scene at approximately 11:15 pm and only two members of the team went to the City Room.
Mr Greaney asked, ‘You were very experienced as a paramedic and senior within the organization, did you give the responsibility for parking that night to the best use of your abilities and experience?’
Mr Polen replied: ‘I think so, yes, because we need to get the vehicles to the scene, we need to get the vehicles away from the scene, we need to make sure the teams are well informed so that they can start treating the victims. .’
He said it was not satisfying that only three paramedics entered the City Chamber that night.
He added: “It’s not. I think more was needed in that room, but they had to go in there together.”
But he said none of the paramedics who entered the room pointed out to him that they were having a hard time or needing more help.
Mr Greaney said, “Isn’t it obvious that someone in a commando role should have gone to that room to find out how those three were doing?”
Mr Polen said yes.
He also told the inquiry that there were problems with communication over the radios and that cell phones were being used instead.
Handout photo issued by Greater Manchester Police of the CCTV image of Salman Abedi at Victoria Station en route to Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017
The scene outside the arena after suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 innocent people
The investigation previously heard how only three paramedics entered the scene of the explosion at the Manchester Arena because firearms police did not declare it safe to enter.
Paddy Ennis was the North West Ambulance Service first responder to enter the City Room foyer in the wake of the attack – but only two colleagues joined him at night.
Victims were evacuated from guardrails, bulletin boards and tables after the suicide bombing by police officers, arena staff and the public.
Mr Ennis told the inquiry that when firearms officers were deployed to the City Room, they “somewhat restricted access to that area.”
He said, “The firearms police made it clear to me on several occasions that they didn’t feel it had been declared safe yet.”
Shortly before entering the foyer, Mr Ennis – more than 20 minutes after the 10:31 pm explosion – was told ‘any NWAS, they need any NWAS there’ by a police officer.
He went on to speak to Inspector Mike Smith of Greater Manchester Police, who had radioed a few moments earlier: ‘Looks like a bomb went off here, I’d say there are about 30 casualties.
Paddy Ennis (pictured) was the North West Ambulance Service first responder who entered the City Room foyer in the wake of the May 2017 terror attack
“Can we please have all available ambulances for me?”
Mr Ennis said he completed his own sweep to gather as much information as he could to give back to his control room and trained not to treat anyone so that a “general grip” could be put on the management of the reaction in the early stages.
He then said to another police officer: ‘We’ll have ambulances soon, we’ll have as many as we can in Victoria Station.
“As soon as we have to start thinking about taking some victims away.
“Actually right now it’s going to be providing first aid to those who are bleeding heavily, I don’t have enough equipment…basic stuff until we get some people here.”
He briefly left the City Room and briefed his line manager, Dan Smith, before re-entering and later being joined by two members of the Hazardous Area Response Team at 11.15pm.
Mr Ennis said he did not believe he had specifically told Mr Smith that the police wanted more paramedics in the City Room, but agreed with counsel for the investigation, Paul Greaney, QC, his boss would have known that there were seriously injured patients in the room.
He told the investigation when firearms officers were deployed to the City Room, they “somewhat restricted access to that area.”
Pictured: CCTV still image of Salman Abedi in Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, just before detonating his bomb, killing 22 people
He said: ‘The firearms police made it clear to me several times that they felt that it had not yet been declared safe in the City Chamber.
“I knew that despite the fact that there were a number of people, including myself, but also many police officers working in the City Room, the firearms police were the ones who seemed 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 considered safe.
“So I believed that was one of the reasons why it wasn’t possible to deploy more paramedics when they got to that area.”
He accepted that no police officer, armed or not, told him to leave the City Room or that other paramedics would not be admitted.
But he said, “There seemed to be a bit of a lack of communication between the different branches of the police in terms of their interpretation of security within the City Chamber.”
Mr Greaney asked: ‘Do you think there is a risk that over time you will think over and over again about your decision-making, convincing yourself that a security problem was hindering your decision-making when you were not thinking about it at the time?’
Mr Ennis replied: ‘I think it is fair to say that I was not at any time concerned for my own safety but I was aware and pointed out by the firearms police officers that they did not think the area was safe used to be. ‘
He later told Austin Welch, who was representing the 22 next of kin: “The decision to ask for more paramedics in that area was one I was not comfortable with.
“The other thing is that there were no paramedics available at the time and the HART team were the people I thought would be best suited to deploy in that area as it hadn’t been declared safe yet.
“During the meeting I had with Dan Smith, I believe I explained that there were a number of agencies working in that area, but what I didn’t do was specifically say ‘these people took this risk, that’s why we have to put our staff in that area’.
“I didn’t, no.”