The Current

Manchester concert eyewitness says explosion was 'loudest noise I've ever heard'

An eight-year-old was among the 22 young fans dead in the wake of a suicide bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K.

Witness: 'They were walking up and down the street looking for their parents'

6 years ago
Duration 1:03
Witnesses describe chaos in aftermath of Manchester concert attack

At least 22 are confirmed dead and more than 60 injured — with young children and teenagers among them — following a suicide bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last night. 

The singer had just left the stage when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near where the arena leads to the train station next door, according to police. The crowd was filled with teenagers and families.

Jess Kelly, a student from York, was one of the 21,000 in the arena who witnessed the tragedy.

"Straight away we thought that it was a bomb, we thought we were under attack. We just thought the worst and we tried to go in the opposite direction," Kelly tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti from Manchester.

Kelly and her friend went back into the arena where they thought they'd be safe, preparing to lie on the floor in case anyone entered.

"The [bomb went off] quite close to where we were exiting," Kelly says.

"We didn't see the actual explosion, but it was the loudest noise I've ever heard. Everyone looked to their left where it was and they all screamed and ran."

So far two victims have been identified, including 18-year-old Georgina Callander and eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos.

Related: 'Simply a beautiful little girl': Concertgoers mourned in Manchester attack

"A lot of Ariana Grande's fan base is very young," Kelly says.
Georgina Callander, left, and Saffie Rose Roussos, victims of the bombing at Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester, England, May 22, 2017. (Instagram, PA/Associated Press)

"Young girls mainly. We saw so many young girls with their friends or with their parents."

A very young fan base

Shashank Joshi, a terrorism expert and senior research fellow at The Royal United Services Institute in London, says it fits in with what has been happening lately in recent attacks.

"I would say that there's been a tendency in Europe in recent years to move towards attacking soft targets ... We saw this in Paris at the Bataclan," Joshi tells Tremonti. 

Because the targets are less well-defended, says Joshi, but they are also "a powerful symbol of what many jihadists and extreme Islamists would consider the decadence, corruption and vice — so it sort of fits with that cultural Islamist message as well but it's nothing out of the ordinary at all."

While the attack seems more planned than some of Europe's most recent vehicular or knife and gun-related attacks, Joshi would "not call it sophisticated."

"I think sophisticated would be a co-ordinated attack that was prolonged. Perhaps the use of multiple devices, the use of some sort of non-metallic bomb … This seems to me to be a fairly conventional attack."

Ariana Grande concert attendees Vikki Baker and her daughter Charlotte, leave the Park Inn where they were given refuge after an explosion at Manchester Arena, May 23, 2017. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Given that the perpetrator was unable to get through security and into the arena, and there seemed to be no other collaborators present, Joshi says that it is very much something U.K. authorities would expect to happen "given that the threat level was severe."

Community pulling together

Adam McClean, an ITV reporter in Manchester, was at the site only minutes after the bomb went off.

Echoing Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, McClean tells Tremonti that the city is pulling together.

"It's one thing the city does well. There's been nothing on this scale in recent memory, but [there was] an explosion in 1996 — an IRA bomb … and the city rebuilt itself and stuck together," he says.

"The same happened this morning and throughout last night. There were taxi with signs saying free transport for whoever needs it … The community has pulled together. There is a northern pride and a northern spirit that is pulling people together."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins and Karin Marley.