Dazed witnesses today described the chaos and horror after a suicide bomber triggered a powerful blast at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande in the English city of Manchester that killed at least 22 people, including children. Stephanie Hill and her daughter Kennedy were at the concert. She said the police and emergency services entered the massive Manchester Arena soon after the blast, but she still did not feel safe. “The police were all there, there were armed police with… their guns, there were ambulances. “They were there so quickly it was unbelievable. But we didn’t know, even then we didn’t know what was going on. “We were thinking ‘oh my God, we’re going to get shot’. “So we ran, we ran and we hid under a bridge for about forty minutes.”
Kennedy said at first the arena was “scarily still for five or six seconds… then everybody just ran.” Rebecca Horrocks, 17, was at the concert with a friend. They were heading to the exit when the explosion went off. “The lights had just come up. We were about to leave through the exit and the explosion shook the floor and there was a bit of smoke coming through the exit. “Everything was silent for a moment then people started screaming and running in the opposite direction and running out of the exit. “We are so lucky to be alive and I’m so sorry I can’t say the same for others,” Horrocks was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Nicky Betteridge was also there with her daughter, Summer. “All of a sudden there was a huge bang and then within seconds people behind me started screaming and running, running past us,” she said. “So I grabbed Summer and said ‘run’ and we started running with everybody else, there were hundreds of people running. “We got to the stairs and everyone was pushing… trying to get down as quickly as we could. “And then we ran outside onto the road and there were lots of people there, crying and shouting.”
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Simon Allsopp and his wife Sarah were driving up the arena to collect their daughter and her friend when they heard the explosion. “I said to my wife ‘that was too loud’. We saw kids coming down the steps and I was able to drive to the bottom of the main steps [and] my wife jumped out of the car to find our daughter Charlotte and her friend Gemma. Gary Walker, from Leeds, and his wife were just metres from the explosion, waiting for their daughters to come out. “We heard the last song go and then suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke. I felt a pain in my foot and my leg. “I turned around to my wife who was standing at the side of me and she said, ‘I need to lay down.’ “She’s got a stomach wound and possible a broken leg. “I’ve got a bit of a hole in my foot where I’ve got a bit of shrapnel. I was surprised I got away so lightly.”
His daughter Abigail, who was still in the auditorium with sister Sophie at the time of the explosion, said: “I had to make sure I had my sister. I grabbed hold of her and pulled hard. Everyone was running and crying. “We were just trying to figure where everyone was. It was absolutely terrifying.” College student Sebastian Diaz, 19, from Newcastle, echoed other witnesses’ descriptions of mass panic at the end of the concert. “Ariana Grande had just finished her last song and there was a huge bang. I just saw running and it was just instinct to run,” he said. “We actually ended up in a corridor and it was a dead end. It was terrifying. “I found the main doors and people were crying everywhere. Back at the hotel people were crying and on their phones.”