Michael O’Hare, chef-patron of The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds, was in a box for the Ariana Grande concert with his partner, two step daughters and 11-week-old baby when the bombing occurred.
The restauranteur told of seeing hundreds of young people crashing into each other and trampling one another as they flooded out of the arena in total panic following the blast.
He described the concourses of the arena as being “carnage” with teenagers sustaining multiple injuries in falls due to the panic and congestion.
While Mr O’Hare and his family were completely unharmed in the attack, he and partner Amanda were forced to run from the area with their children and a pram past hundreds of stricken individuals before eventually taking refuge in Manchester’s National Football Museum.
He added that his two step-daughters, Molly and Beau - aged 14 and 10 respectively - were distraught following the attack.
Speaking from his home in Cheshire, Mr O’Hare said: “To think that I am sitting at home with my family after last night being caught up in a terror attack is insane.
“How do you explain to a 10-year-old what has just happened? This was supposed to be the biggest night of her life. She absolutely idolises Ariana Grande, as did tens of thousands of other kids there.
“As we left the arena concourse was full of clothes, single shoes..there were splashes of blood noticeably everywhere.
“I think a lot of people got hurt in the stampede as well as the bombing. It was just instinct, no malice at all, people were scared and just ran. But I would be surprised if nobody was killed in that.
“The proportion of children to adults was so high. Many had just been dropped off by their parents. There were kids as young as ten, probably younger. “Certainly lots of groups of teenagers. To kids, someone like Ariana is turbo.”
Their place in the box had only been secured at the last minute, with he and Beau initially due to sit on the floor level in front of the stage.
The trip had been a Christmas present for Beau, whom Mr O’Hare described as an avid fan and “totally stoked” to see the concert. However when given the chance of a place in the box they decided to go together as a family, with his infant son wearing ear defenders throughout the show.
Mr O’Hare said he and his partner Amanda spent most of the show inside the box looking after their baby.
Recalling the blast he said: “ After she finished her encore she [Ariana] ran off stage and the lights went up. People started making their way out.
“Then, there was a massive bang. It was different to normal. Almost like a mic had been dropped. But it echoed around the place due to the acoustics of the arena.
“Next thing I know, from where were seated at the right of the stage, all we could see on the left hand side was people piling in the direction of the stage. “Initially I thought she had come back out to do another song. She has quite a hysterical fan base. Then the other couple in the box we were in said someone had been shot.”
Mr O’Hare and his family considered leaving but he says a member of staff urged him to stay, saying it was likely a technical fault and that “if there had been a bomb or something we would know by now”.
Mr O’Hare said he began to relax and even opened a drink when he heard commotion outside.
“It was carnage”, he said.
“It full of people running into each other or pushing to get out. I saw handbags, blood on the floor, phones, shoes that had been abandoned. And there was a smokey atmosphere, almost like a smog.”
Mr O’Hare said they were eventually told to leave by other security personnel. While he said the panic and congestion had eased by this point, he said that he and his family had to “duck and dive” to get their daughters and pram out of the arena safely.
Outside his partner Amanda consoled teary teenagers who were trying to get through to their parents while he cared for the children. Eventually there were able to take refuge in the National Football Museum where a corporate event was happening. The museum is located in the same area as another of Mr O’Hare’s restaurants and he has a contract with the museum through one of his companies.
Eventually police cleared the museum and Mr O’Hare had the good fortune to happened upon a black cab who took his family home.
He said the streets had been cleared by then and described the surreal scene of there only being police and reporters in the area.
“There are not many places where you expect to feel safe but an arena gig was high on the list,” he said.
“Ariana is a mega star to children. I don’t know the motivations of the attacker but children are dead where they should have been having the time of their lives.
“To think my 11-week-old son was caught up in that is nuts.”
Mr O’Hare, who went to Redcar’s Sacred Heart School, has worked at some of the world’s top restaurants and holds a Michelin Star for The Man Behind the Curtain.
He is a Creative Director of GG Hospitality and oversees the company’s restaurant The Rabbit in the Moon in Manchester.