Manchester's Fire Chief denies misleading the Prime Minister over Arena failings

Manchester's former Fire Chief admits failings over Arena attack

Manchester's chief fire officer did not tell the Prime Minister that fire fighters had failed to attend the scene of the arena bombings for more than two hours.

Peter O'Reilly was among senior emergency services responders to meet Theresa May in Manchester on the morning after the attack in May 2017.

 He told the inquiry he had information that the fire service had 'been delayed for quite some time', but did not mention that.

Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham

Mr O'Reilly, who retired nine months after the attack, said he wanted to talk to the Prime Minister but Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, said there was no failing because the fire service was "not required."

The fire and rescue service did not turn up for more than two hours because they wrongly thought there might be a gunman on the loose and so they met at a rendezvous point three miles from the arena. 

As a result, the injured and dying had to be carried from the city Room foyer where the bomb had gone off on makeshift stretchers made from advertising hoardings, carried by police officers and members of the public.

The 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack

Mr O'Reilly said he had been so concerned that at 4am on the morning after the explosion, he asked the Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dave Keelan to come to force headquarters and "find out exactly why there was such a poor response."

John Cooper QC for the bereaved families said "On behalf of the families, I put it to you, you should have put that to the prime minister straight away?"

 Mr O'Reilly said he felt there" should have been an opportunity for at least myself and the chief constable" of Greater Manchester Police, Ian Hopkins, to "explain there had been failings."

A text message was shown to the inquiry in which Peter Holland, the government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, wrote that the "PM plans to write to all three blue light services post the bombing"

Mr Holland said he was "conscious of the criticism flying around so I want to help, as you know."

 He asked: "Will the following work for you" and then listed how the Manchester specialist rescue teams were sent to a rendezvous point and "stood by to support" and that around 20 fire fighters "assisted" the ambulance service with casualties.

Andrew Warnock QC, for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), asked Mr O'Reilly whether the meeting with the prime minister "seemed to you the occasion for an inquisition as to short comings of the emergency response the evening before?"