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Fri 26 May 2017

Manchester terror attack

Jack Scanlon and Zara Robson-Rodriguez, both 26, travelled to Manchester on Monday to see one of their favourite singers, Ariana Grande, at Manchester Arena as part of her worldwide tour.

 

Following the American artist’s performance, a suicide bomber detonated a device, believed to be a nail bomb, in the foyer of the 21,000-capacity venue, killing 22 people and injuring 59 more.

Mrs Robson-Rodriguez was hit in the back of her right leg by shrapnel, causing an inch-deep wound, and Mr Scanlon’s t-shirt was cut by flying debris.

 

“It was by far the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Mrs Robson-Rodriguez.

 

“After Ariana finished we headed into the foyer where we saw parents waiting to pick their children up and we said how cute it was.

 

“We were in such a good mood after an amazing performance.

 

“Then all of a sudden everything turned on its head. There was a bright flash and we heard a huge bang – it was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.

 

“For a split second I thought it might have been part of an encore and the bang was a cannon or something as Ariana walked back on to the stage.

 

“But then it dawned on me what had happened and I just froze. It was the most terrified I’ve ever been.

 

“Jack grabbed my arm and said 'We need to get out of here', before dragging me out. He saved my life.

 

“The sound of the girls screaming and the sight of all the blood on the floor that will never leave me. It was like a war zone.”

 

Footage of the friends in blood-splattered clothing running down a set of stairs moments after the blast was featured in news broadcasts following the attack.

 

After leaving the arena, they continued running and reached a set of tram tracks around five minutes away, when Mrs Robson-Rodriguez noticed a sharp pain in her leg.

 

 

“Getting from the arena to the tram tracks felt like a lifetime, but it must have only been a few minutes.

 

“People in the city centre who didn’t know what had happened were looking at us in disbelief, like we were crazy,” she added.

 

“We stopped to catch our breath and that’s when the pain hit me. I think the adrenaline must have masked it when it happened but when it wore off it’s like nothing I’ve felt before, I was in agony.

 

“I felt the back of my right leg and realised I had been hit.

 

"I looked down and saw blood pouring through my jeans and then I noticed my boot was filled with blood.”

 

The shell-shocked pair arrived at the Mercure hotel, where they had planned to stay for the night, and Mr Scanlon called an ambulance for his injured friend, but was told it would be a four-hour wait.

 

Staff at the hotel bandaged Mrs Robson-Rodriguez’s leg up and looked after the pair, but they decided they did not want to stay in Manchester.

 

They drove all the way to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, arriving at 4.30am, where her wound was stitched up.

 

“Staff at the hotel were amazing but we didn’t feel safe there," said Mr Scanlon, of Stallard Street, who works as a chef at The Barge Inn in Bradford on Avon and The Windsor in Bath.

 

"For all we knew there could have been a gunman on the loose or a second bomb about to go off in the city.

 

“We just wanted to get out of Manchester and get home as quickly as possible, so we left the hotel and ran to my car.

 

 

“In the car we had the news on the radio and we were both in floods of tears as the updates came in.

 

“So many ambulances passed us as we left Manchester, we must have gone past 10.

 

“It wasn’t until we saw signs for Bristol – things we both recognised – that we finally felt safe. We were hit by a sense of relief that is very hard to put into words.”

 

Mrs Robson-Rodriguez bought the tickets in November as a birthday present for Mr Scanlon, who turned 26 on Wednesday, two days after the blast.

 

She also has tickets to see Blink 182 and New Found Glory, at Manchester Arena and Manchester Academy, but said she does not want to visit the city ever again – let alone go to either of the concerts.

 

 

The Ariana Grande concert was two years to the day since the funeral of Mr Scanlon’s mum. The chef said it was like she was “watching over him” from above.

 

Salman Ramadan Abedi, 22, was named by police as the attacker on Tuesday.

 

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the barbaric attack, which involved a home-made device packed with nuts and bolts which exploded in the venue’s foyer as thousands of young people were leaving.

Robin Murray, Reporter -WILTSHIRE TIME