A veteran fire service manager around the world was “surprisingly outraged” after the Manchester Arena bombing turned down his chief’s call to send firefighters.
Just 12 hours after the May 2017 blast, only 12 regular firefighters were dispatched to the scene, with suicide bomber Salman Abidi detonating a huge device in his bag as the young party left Ariana Grande Gig. had been .
Police and others who went to the scene were said to be desperate for help, but fire service owners put frustrated firefighters largely behind the threat of another terrorist.
The Greater Manchester Police Force Duty Officer described Operation Plato as a plan to deal with the Paris-style terrorist attack just minutes after the blast, but did not provide Blue Light services.
When the public investigation began today (Wednesday), the night of the attack, the duty group manager of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Dan Nankewell, who was devastated around the world as part of the UK’s international Is. The search and rescue team said Peter O’Russell, the brigade’s then chief of staff, was told tonight about the horrific commotion and how many firefighters should be sent.
Only a team of 12 regular firefighters – a number of whom will be involved in the house fire – was dispatched to the scene, two hours after the blast, and arrived at the scene at 39 minutes past midnight.
Specialist staff, trained to better cut and treat blast wounds, were put back.
City center-based firefighters were dispatched to Phillips Park Fire Station, three miles from the first field, and only to Manchester Central Fire Station at the end of the night.
Eventually they were forced to wait for 30 minutes, some of whom were eventually sent to the venue, leaving the expert staff behind.
The inquiry heard that Mr. O’Reilly, a Northwest Ambulance Service commander who was present at the time, called Steve Hans at 00.12 and agreed to send only 12 firefighters.
Now retired Mr. Nankewell described the turmoil with Mr. O’Reilly, who was followed by a senior manager in the command support room of the fire service headquarters in Eccles.
The witness said that at that very moment, the Command Support Room came to know that the GMP had announced OP Plato, even though it had been announced long before that.
The firefighters’ anger at the incident that night was expressed in an interview with the mayor’s Crislock Review, parts of which were read out during the interrogation. ۔
Mr Nankewell said Ben Levy, the incident commander at Manchester Central Fire Station at the time, was “pressuring” firefighters to move forward, and he had agreed to send five pumps.
It was only then that officers realized that Operation Pluto had been launched – Mr Nankewell said the revelation reaffirmed his view that he had to send firefighters immediately, including to treat those injured in the blast. Also trained specialists.
But, while he was on the phone with Mr Levy, Mr O’Reilly tied his hands down to his table and insisted that 12 regular firefighters be trampled, the inquiry was told.
“I publicly challenged it in front of everyone,” Mr Nankewell told Krislock’s review, stressing that the firefighter’s expert staff had advanced straps and stretchers.
He continued: “I’m sorry I didn’t take it too hard at the time. But the chief said, ‘Steve Haynes is telling me what we’re doing, and that’s what you’re doing.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Are you okay with that?’
“It was like a mess.
“It wasn’t said in a loud voice. It was said in a steady voice. I just said, ‘You’re the chief.’
Mr Nankewell said the fire service had been “surprisingly angry” with him that night.
The first-minute organizers began receiving information when National Integrity Liaison Officers (NILOs) arrived at Phillips Park Fire Station in Miles Plating.
He told the Chrysler Review: “I’m angry with the past. At night I was surprisingly angry. Day and the next day I was surprisingly angry.
“In a way, I’ve moved on from anger because it doesn’t work. The passion for me is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“If I had run it … I would have done things very differently. I would have sent, I wouldn’t have had to join Phillips Park. I would have definitely moved on.”
He added: “We have to accept that we have to take some risks. I think there are dangers that can be overcome. I think there are enough police officers on the ground, of course armed officers, So I think there will be enough to help us.
Suppressed by Pool Granny QC. “If I’m being honest, they’re still my feelings today,” Mr. Nankewell, the inquiry’s lawyer, told the hearing.
They agreed on the need for fire service to go to the field to get ‘awareness of the situation’.
“We needed someone down to get the land right,” he said.
The inquiry heard that station manager Alan Topping had been sent to Phillips Park Fire Station, but when he contacted the three Nello, Ben Levy, Carlos McCain and Andy Berry, they found a “cold shoulder” that was missing. And it took an hour to get closer. The fire station is on its way to Cheshire.
Mr Nanakville told the Inquiry that Mr Topping had informed him that when he arrived at the Phillips Park fire station, the three NILOs were talking ‘over the bonnet’ but they gave him a ‘cold shoulder’.
Mr Nankewell said the NILOs had a role to play but said they had never felt the need to do so.
He said the Blues were in a small part of the club with the ‘secret’ WhatsApp group and that information from them was rarely filtered by firefighters.
“I was not surprised by what Al (Topping) told me,” he said.
Asked by Chairman Sir John Sanders, Mr Nankewell agreed that NILOs consider themselves ‘a bit of an elite’.
The inquiry found that all senior managers in the command support room wanted to send specialist staff, in addition to Mr O’Reilly and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Jeff Harris.
Mr Harris had no role that night and was “interfering with the game”, according to Mr Nanakville.
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He explained how he would decide to send fire engines somewhere and he heard Mr. Harris just repeat it.
“Mr. Harris was repeating everything I said,” Mr. Nankewell said. It was another voice we didn’t need. “
He agreed that he was not interested in Mr. Harris’s administration. If there was a report, Mr Harris was “more interested in spelling and grammar” than in the text.
John Cooper QC, representing the bereaved families, asked Mr. Nankewell about Mr. O’Reilly’s administration.
QC said: “Isn’t that bullying?”
“I’ve never been bullied,” Mr Nankewell said.
Suppressed by the chairman, the witness said he did not see anyone beating or grabbing Mr. O’Reilly.
Mr. Nankewell was a ‘big character’ in a key position.
He denied that the fire chief was “old-fashioned in his management style”.
QC asked: “Did he misuse his position to intimidate lower class people?”
“No, he didn’t use it to intimidate people, no,” Mr. Nankewell replied.
He pointed out that challenging Mr. O’Reilly did not result in any recovery.
After completing his evidence, Mr Nankewell’s chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Sanders, went on to explain his position on ‘what I think everyone would agree on was a devastating night for the fire service’. Thank you.