A Yorkshire couple caught up in the Manchester Arena bombing has claimed it took over an hour for some of the injured to receive medical treatment.
A serving firefighter has also alleged that fire service staff could have saved lives had they been deployed sooner.
The claims are made in a report for tonight’s BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire programme, which has investigated the emergency services response.
A bomb killed 22 people and injured 512 when Salman Abedi detonated a suicide device in the foyer of the Manchester Arena on May 22, also killing himself.
Kim and Phil Dick, from Bradford, were in the foyer of the arena on the evening of the attack waiting to pick up their daughter and granddaughter.
Mrs Dick, who stayed with some of the victims, said: ““We kept talking to everyone to keep them alert. It was over an hour. We could hear the ambulances all the time. I just kept shouting we need paramedics, we need paramedics now.
“The crying was really really loud and as the hour went on it went down and down and went really quiet. I was desperate to get the paramedics to help these girls.”
Mr Dick added: “The longer it went on the more silent it became and it was really eerie. People who I had seen a little earlier were now dead.”
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has a technical response unit, staff trained specifically to deal with terrorist attacks. But the first fire fighters deployed to the arena only left their station at one hour and 47 minutes after the explosion, it is alleged.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) states that most firefighters across the UK are not covered by their employer’s insurance for going into terrorist incidents. The FBU wants its members who attend terror attacks to know that compensation for their families will be automatic. At the moment, they would have to prove that their employers had been negligent.
Andy Dark, the assistant general secretary of the FBU, said: “It’s a truly terrible situation. We’re torn, do we stop our people doing it, do we tell them not to volunteer? I’m absolutely confident that the public would expect that if a firefighter was killed under those circumstances that there would be an automatic pay out for those family members that were left behind.”
Save the UK Fire Service is an online Facebook forum for firefighters in the UK. The firefighter who runs the site, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “There could have been more lives saved. I wouldn’t like to quantify that but definitely I’m sure there could have been more lives saved.
"There were rumours that some people wanted to self-deploy because they were watching ambulances drive past their fire station and they were wondering why they hadn’t been tasked to the event because the skills they’ve got they could help.”
On the night of the Manchester bomb those that were on duty used the Save the UK Fire Service site to vent their frustrations that they weren’t being sent to the arena.
Comments on the site on the night included: “I have been a firefighter for nearly ten years in Manchester and I’ve never felt so much guilt in all my life. We were only half a mile away from helping, only half a mile away from saving lives and that is something that will stay with me forever.”
Ambulance crews from across England treated the injured who had been able to leave the scene. But only one paramedic from the North West ambulance service had made it into the foyer before the police cordon was made secure. Over the next hour he was joined by two colleagues, according to the documentary.
Mr and Mrs Dick witnessed a victim with horrific injuries collapse in front of them in the foyer and claim it took more than hour for her to get medical help.
Mrs Dick said: “She could hardly walk, she was stumbling, bleeding from her arm and her mouth and her leg. All her hair was burnt and I just grabbed her because she was going to fall.”
Mr Dick added: “Clearly they didn’t know if there was another bomb, I understand that. But they deployed tens if not hundreds of police officers into that foyer, if some of these had been medically trained then some people’s injuries could have been dealt with quicker and perhaps some lives could have been saved.”
An anonymous contact from Save the UK Fire Service, who spoke to BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, claims the reason for that delay is down to a lack of insurance.
They said: “As soon as the police announced that it was a terrorist incident, any further attendance could affect your own personal life insurance, mortgage, endowment policy because you are going into a terrorist incident. In some brigades they have arranged additional insurance to cover those who are undertaking a terrorist response. Existing normal fire and rescue insurance doesn’t cover for terrorist incidents.”
The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham has set up an independent enquiry under Lord Kerslake to ask if lessons can be learnt from the events in May. The review will be published next year.
Andy Burnham, speaking on BBC North West Tonight earlier this year, said: “We’ve got to get inside those issues, what happened, was it the right response and learn from it and that’s the whole point of this review.”
North West Ambulance Service said: “Our staff are fully insured to attend terrorist related incidents.”
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue said they have: “Conducted their own debrief of the organisation’s response to the Manchester Arena attack and are co-operating fully with the Kerslake Review".
While Greater Manchester Police said they had: “Contacted the North West Ambulance Service within three minutes of the incident being declared and followed our major incident plan".