Firefighters have asked for forgiveness after it was revealed they were banned from helping victims the night of the Manchester bombing.
Rank-and-file firefighters today told of their devastation at the decisions made by senior management during the attack which left 22 dead and 119 injured.
A probe by Lord Bob Kerslake revealed that fire crews were delayed by two hours and six minutes after the bombing.
Firefighters have asked for the forgiveness of the victims and families caught up in the Manchester Arena attack
The fire service ‘stuck to the rules’ of an operation designed to keep emergency service workers away from on-the-run terrorists amid uncertainty over whether the bomber was still on the loose.
In an emotional open letter, one anonymous firefighter told how they had never ‘felt so much guilt in all my life’.
‘Young children were dying and we weren’t there to help. I did not sign up to the best job in the world to turn my back. Please forgive your firefighters who were begging to help.’
Luckily, paramedics did not follow the same rules and twelve ambulances, along with armed police, did arrive within 20 minutes.
The report refused to say whether the delays led to extra deaths, insisting that question should be considered by a coroner.
Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has ordered a review into what happened and urged people ‘not to jump to conclusions’.
The anonymous firefighter’s emotional letter in full
I have been a firefighter for 10 years now and never ever felt so much guilt in all my life.
I was one of the first crews who got turned out to the tragic event in Manchester.
We stood around and were not given any updates. We got most of the information from news updates even though we were at an rendezvous point with high ranking senior fire officers.
Two hours went by, watching numerous paramedics from as far away as East Midlands turning up and being deployed while we just stood around doing nothing.
Even a paramedic came to us pleading. She had just taken a young girl to hospital, sadly one of the tragic victims of this horrid attack. She was begging us, pleading with us to help, because they needed it.
Help in getting the casualties away from danger, help with triage and help with carrying victims. I have felt nothing but guilt, feeling ashamed and feeling let down by senior officers who didn’t have the balls to commit us.
We pleaded with our high ranking officers to let us go but that got declined on numerous occasions.
Young children were dying and we weren’t there to help. I did not sign up to the best job in the world to turn my back! We were only half a mile away from helping, from potentially saving lives.
This will stick with me forever. I would personally like to apologise to the victims and their families because I was part of a service you depend on and we weren’t there when you needed us. Please please forgive your firefighters who were begging to help.
The report praised the bravery and compassion of emergency services but criticised the rules and procedures under which they operate
Another firefighter with more than a decade of experience told how his crew had been sent away from the arena while paramedics attended.
In a moving plea he said: ‘I would like to ask for the forgiveness of the victims, their families, and other emergency service workers for not upholding my end on the night.
‘If it ever happens again I will do what I should have done on that night – pick up the first aid bag off the taxpayers’ fire engine and walk to the incident myself – or hitch a ride with the true heroes of the incident – the ambulance service.
‘Many of us have been left distressed and devastated by what happened.’
The emergency service personnel described how he and his colleagues had found it impossible to come to terms with the brutality of the event.
Concert-goers stream from the Manchester Arena after the bombing in May last year. Some of those caught up in the blast have criticised the lack of medical assistance in the aftermath
Graphics included in the report show the bomber targeted the foyer at the end of the concert
Paramedics were on the scene in 20 minutes but the lack of medical supplies was criticised
The bombing claimed the lives of 22 people. Over a hundred others were injured in the blast
He said morale in the force was at rock bottom, and asked forgiveness of the victim’s of the attack.
‘We were just that sitting there, desperate to go. We just wanted to help.
‘Police from Wales and Yorkshire and ambulances from the East Midlands were at the Arena helping the dead and wounded – 400 yards from our base.
‘It was heart wrenching for those sat there, with news coming back that the general public were carrying dead, dying, and injured people on advertising boards.
‘Paramedics were coming back questioning why we weren’t doing anything when they needed us for basics like oxygen cylinders and to fetch and carry.
‘Five fire engines and a specially trained team of firefighters, specifically for responding to terrorist attacks, sat idle at the station for the remainder of the incident.’
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi (left) targeted the teenage fans of popstar Ariana Grande (right)
A mourner lights a candle at a vigil in Manchester’s Albert Square after the bombing
The firefighter added he believes crews were failed by their management and in turn failed to serve the public.
‘With the hatchet falling in the form of the Kerslake report I want your readers to be fully aware that on the night of the terrorist attack the firefighters up to and including the rank of station officer were expecting to be deployed to the arena,’ he said.
‘The effects of the evening have been far reaching. We still feel let down.
‘Morale has been low for a good few years now. The events of the night of the Arena have made things a whole lot worse.
‘While I was walking aimlessly, helpless and frustrated around Thomson Street station – less than a mile from the Arena I saw a note on a tile.
‘It was not an ordinary tile but one from the roof of Strangeways Prison, presented to firemen who turned out when there was a riot on. The inscription said ‘We Called You Came’.
‘Reading that as I waited and waited to be sent to the Arena I felt ashamed to be a firefighter.’