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Manchester terror attack: Ashton Hayes family who were at concert describe scenes of panic and disbelief

Daily Post reporter Andrew Forgrave witnessed the drama unfold with his family

Daily Post reporter Andrew Forgrave, who lives in Ashton Hayes , had taken his wife Gillian, teenage daughter India and her friend to see Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena as a birthday treat.

They could not have foreseen the horrific events that would unfold just minutes after the concert ended.

It was just an innocent family night out - a birthday treat for two young fans to see their beloved US pop star Ariana Grande in action.

The singer had given a show-stopping performance and the young girls had returned the favour by buying T-shirts, posters, bracelets and as much merchandise as they could get their hands on.

But as they stood up to leave, everything changed when they heard a loud bang.

"Everyone stopped. Turned around," said Andrew. “What the heck was THAT?” said the woman next to me, waiting to join the throng of people heading up the stairs to the exit.

"Following the bang, there was a momentary pause. Then, drama on the far side of the arena as a crowd of concert-goers panicked.

"People started sprinting in opposite directions"

"From a staircase people sprinted in opposite directions, like a shoal of fish parting and fleeing from a marauding shark. The effect was of a giant people curtain being drawn open. Some tripped and fell over seats. Many screamed."

Daily Post reporter Andrew Forgrave captured the scene at Manchester Arena after the terrorist attack.(Image: Daily Post Wales)

From their distant vantage point, Andrew and his family looked on in disbelief. They assumed the bang had come from a blown speaker, or even a popped pink balloon, for there were many of them floating around the area.

"The bang was loud but the ground didn't shake, as others nearer to the explosion said later," remembers Andrew. "My wife said she heard a second bang. No one near us reacted immediately: it was only when seeing the scenes opposite us that fear began rippling through the crowd.

"Fear quickly turned to hysteria"

"It was like a contagion: fear quickly turned to hysteria as those around us began bolting for the exit.

"My wife clutched the two girls close to her. A family tried to push them out the way: my wife calmed them, reassuring them there was nothing to worry about. They clambered over seats instead."

Andrew grabbed his mobile phone and managed to film a short video clip before his battery went flat.

"My journalistic instincts weren’t too frustrated: it was probably a false alarm anyway," he said. "Calm had begun to settle on the arena. The squall of crowd hysteria had passed over.

"A man appeared on stage and implored the crowd to be calm and patient, to make our way to the exits. There was nothing to be alarmed about, he told us. Nothing had happened."

Reassured, they made their way up the stairs, on the way passing a man who was clutching a jumper to his head.

Daily Post reporter Andrew Forgrave captured the scene at Manchester Arena after the terrorist attack.(Image: Andrew Forgrave)

Andrew thought he may have been a 'stampede victim'. Then they passed a woman doubled over and in tears. Two other people were hunched against a wall.

"A thin pall of smoke hung in the air," recalls Andrew. "Had someone let off a cracker? From our vantage point, on the opposite end of the arena, the idea it had been an explosion never occurred to us.

"My wife’s instincts were to get the girls to safety, away from the crowds. As we hit the fresh air, a PA system urged people to evacuate the area. Really? We thought nothing had happened."

As they passed both children and adults 'wailing inconsolably', the family began to get a bad feeling that it may be much worse than a few stampede injuries.

(Image: PA)

"On the way home my daughter read the latest news alerts from her mobile. She missed bits out; she couldn’t bear to speak the words. I turned the radio back on. There had been multiple fatalities. My wife began shaking.

"As she readied for bed, her phone began pinging wildly with texts - one from Australia. Were we OK? Had we survived? To us, it seemed an overreaction: we’d left the concert thinking a pink balloon had popped near a loudspeaker.

"It doesn’t seem real. A few hours earlier, thousands of teenagers, mostly girls, had been dancing joyfully and screaming so loudly that the sound seemed to lift balloons into the air. Now there is just sadness and, for many, an innocence lost."

 

 

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