Survivors who were among the closest people to suicide bomber Salman Abedi when he detonated his device have said they felt they were “left to die” by emergency services.
Law firm Hudgell Solicitors is preparing civil claims for more than 150 survivors from the 2017 Manchester Arena attack.
They are seeking damages for physical and psychological injuries, to recover loss of earnings and cover the costs of ongoing treatment, rehabilitation and care.
Among its clients are sisters Janet Senior, 64, and Josie Howarth, 66, from Knottingley, West Yorkshire, who were waiting in the City Room foyer waiting for their nieces, Jenny, 19, and Jodie, 13, at the end of the Ariana Grande concert.
All survived despite Ms Howarth being left with two nuts lodged in her leg and Ms Senior having a large metal nut embedded in her neck after completely shattering her clavicle, with another burning and branding its shape on her arm.
Ms Senior said: “We were injured in the foyer for about an hour with no help coming at all and that time will forever haunt me.
“Josie was slipping in and out of consciousness and I was worried she was going to die. I felt so alone, so helpless, so afraid. We were left waiting for what seemed an eternity.
“People were dying around us. I can still hear the sounds of all the people around wailing in agony and calling desperately for help. Over time, that calling out faded and people stopped calling out.
“I can remember thinking, as more time passed, ‘Nobody is coming for us. We’re being left to die’.
“There were too many chiefs, not enough doers. There were some exceptionally brave people who were inside when it happened and who acted like true heroes. These were mainly ordinary people acting on human instinct to help others. ‘Joe Public’ did their job but the emergency services had too many chiefs running organised chaos.
“I can understand the reluctance to put people in danger and I guess it’s human nature not to, but I fully believe it was the duty of those emergency and rescue services to go in and to try and save lives.”
Retired police and counter-terrorism officer Andrea Bradbury, 58, from Ribble Valley, Lancashire, luckily received only minimal physical injuries as she waited with a friend to collect their teenage daughters.
She said: “This was preventable, I have no doubt. It was a perfect storm of failures in terms of the security services, the event organisers and our policing and emergency services. They were unprepared and totally caught off guard. It was appalling.
“I knew immediately it had been a bomb.
“I called the on-call counter-terrorism officer within minutes of the explosion on my mobile to give them a clear picture of what had happened in there, from somebody with experience, to help them quickly assess the situation, and I gave two further updates.
“I made it clear that a massive emergency response was needed immediately, as I thought around 30 people had been killed by a single bomb but that there were no firearms involved.
“As I left the arena I saw emergency vehicles rushing to the area and I believed they were heading in – in numbers – to help people but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
“People were left in the time of need. It was so wrong, especially when experienced officers who did go in were demanding assistance and firearms teams had secured the building.
“Out of everything I’ve seen and been through in my life, this is the one thing I can’t put out of my mind. It was horrific, but what has always frustrated and angered me is that fact that it was preventable in the first place, and after it did happen, people were so badly let down by the police and the emergency services.”
Ruth Murrell, 52, saw a friend killed while she and her daughter, Emily, feared they may die too as they waited for emergency services to arrive.
Mrs Murrell said it has not only left them both psychologically scarred for life but also their loved ones too.
She said her eldest daughter, Jessica, has also since suffered from “survivor’s guilt” and needed counselling as she gave up her ticket for the concert to allow her younger sister Emily to be able to attend with a friend.
Her husband Dave also needed counselling and had to give up his job because he was afraid to leave his family alone.
Mrs Murrell said she had to leave her job working at a GP surgery while she underwent seven operations on her leg and dozens of sessions of therapy.
Emily, now 18, has had to learn to walk again after she lost 25% movement in her left foot.
Mrs Murrell said: “We were left in the foyer without any help at all. We just kept thinking that help would arrive. Everybody who was able to was ringing the emergency services and asking when they were coming. People were dying in front of your eyes and it was just awful.
“What happened on the night at Manchester Arena was a shambles, just shocking. We all know now that so many errors were made. We can’t change the past, but we must ensure that lessons are learned and that the right changes are made in the future.
“The security has to be so much better, the preparation and planning to respond has to be better, and the organisation of our emergency services must not be hindered by red tape like they were. They are emergency and rescue services, and must be focused on doing just that.
“In terms of the rescue effort at Manchester Arena, after all that has been said I still believe they could and should have been in there helping us within minutes.”