Media caption, “It seemed to last forever” waiting for help to come for John Atkinson, bomb survivor Ron Blake, pictured, says
A man who fought to save a victim of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing has said “big mistakes” were made on the night of the blast.
Ron Blake is telling his story for the first time since the attack – ahead of a major report into the bombing.
He was praised for “heroic” efforts to save John Atkinson in the suicide attack, but he died from his injuries.
Mr Atkinson, 28, was not seen by paramedics for 47 minutes, which Mr Blake said “seemed to last forever”.
The Manchester Arena Inquiry has heard the care worker from Radcliffe would have had “quite a high” survival chance had he been treated more quickly.
Twenty-two people died in the bombing on 22 May 2017 at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
The second of three official reports will be published on Thursday. It will consider whether two of the victims, including Mr Atkinson, might have survived had the emergency services responded more quickly.
Mr Blake told the BBC he believed “big mistakes were made that night” and those in charge had “got it all wrong”.
He called 999 less than a minute after the explosion and, despite being injured himself and having no first aid training, tended to Mr Atkinson after seeing he was losing a lot of blood.
Mr Blake used his wife’s belt as a tourniquet, having only ever seen it done on television, and held it on Mr Atkinson’s leg for almost an hour.
Image source, Family photograph
Image caption, Ron Blake said he believed John Atkinson, pictured, would survive the attack
The inquiry has already heard about a series of failings in the planning, preparation and response to the attack by emergency and security services including:
The ambulance, fire and police services have all apologised but Mr Blake said that did not mean anything to him.
He told the BBC of the anguish he felt waiting for help to arrive.
“It just seemed to last forever. It seemed to go on and on and on and no-one was coming so I just kept trying to talk to John.
“He kept saying ‘I’m going to die, aren’t I?’ and I said ‘no you are not.'”
Mr Atkinson was carried out of the arena foyer on a metal barrier as a makeshift stretcher via the stairs to the casualty clearing station at the adjoining Manchester Victoria railway station.
Mr Blake said he left him with a paramedic, and he was “still talking” so he thought he would survive.
He spoke of his shock at finding out Mr Atkinson had died when he was being treated in hospital for his own injuries the next day.
“It was on the news in the waiting room,” he said.
“I went outside… and just broke down.”
Mr Atkinson’s family have previously praised Mr Blake’s “heroic” efforts to save him.
He said: “I hope I did what I could.
“I did what anybody else would have done.”
Image source, Family handouts
Image caption, Twenty-two people died in the bombing on 22 May 2017
Abedi also injured hundreds of people when he detonated his homemade device at the arena.
His younger brother, Hashem Abedi, was jailed for at least 55 years for his involvement in the bombing.
The public inquiry into the attack ended in March after hearing evidence from 267 witnesses since September 2020.
The first of three reports, written by inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders, was published in June 2021.
It highlighted a number of failures, including missed opportunities to avert or minimise the “devastating impact” of the blast, and it levelled criticism at British Transport Police (BTP), the arena operators SMG, and their contracted security providers, Showsec.
It also noted how Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat by arena security.
The inquiry is due to publish its findings on Thursday on the emergency response.
Image source, PA Media
Image caption, The Glade of Light memorial in Manchester bears the names of all those who were killed in the attack
The Prince and Princess of Wales officially opened a memorial to victims of the attack in May.
The Glade of Light bears the names of those killed in the attack.
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