Youngest victim of Manchester Arena terrorist attack ‘could have survived’

Death of eight-year-old Saffie Roussos raises questions about emergency response after 2017 bombing

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 26:  A man holds a thank you note from the family of Saffie Roussos to the those attending the funeral of the young Manchester Attack victim outside Manchester Cathedral on July 26, 2017 in Manchester, England. Saffie Rousso, aged eight, from Lancashire was the youngest victim of the Manchester sucide bombing attack at the Ariana Grande concert in May. The funeral of Saffie is the last of the 22 victims of the bombing.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The youngest victim of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack could have survived with better medical care, according to her family.

Saffie Roussos, 8, was one of 22 people killed when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a nail-filled rucksack bomb at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande in May 2017.

A public inquiry heard that the girl could not have survived her injuries, but a medical report commissioned by her parents said that she was alive for more than an hour and opportunities to save her were missed.

Saffie attended the concert with her mother and sister and was just five metres from the explosion that left hundreds injured as shrapnel from the bomb was scattered across the lobby of the music venue.

The report said that she was the first person to be taken to hospital in an ambulance after the blast – but that it was missing vital equipment. It said that basic first aid was not administered to prevent bleeding from her injured legs, according to her family.

“She could have been saved,” said her father Andrew. “How do we carry on living with this information? How can we carry on breathing with this information?”

He told the BBC that Saffie asked a paramedic if she was going to die. “Eight-year-olds don’t ask those questions, it doesn’t matter how hurt they are,” said Mr Roussos.

“She was asking for help. She knew what was happening and she bled to death.”

A public inquiry into the bombing restarted on Monday after a break to examine the role of the emergency services in the aftermath of the attack.

The inquiry heard that an "heroic" off-duty nurse took charge of the care of Saffie in the chaotic aftermath of the explosion in the City Room at the venue. She was carried out on a piece of advertising hoarding and helpers flagged down a passing ambulance to take her to hospital.

Despite treatment at the hospital, she was declared dead little more than an hour after the blast from blood loss in her legs.

An initial post-mortem examination concluded that she was unlikely to survive from the scale of her injuries. A second report, based on new evidence, went further and stated that her injuries were too severe.

The latest report received by her family, based on two further experts, suggested that she could have survived, the inquiry was told.

Mr Roussos said there were now different accounts over the final minutes of his daughter. "I thought the inquiry was there for us," he said.

The inquiry heard on Monday that only one paramedic had reached the City Room, the scene of the blast, within 40 minutes of the blast. The paramedic who arrived had travelled on his own initiative and had followed a police vehicle to the scene.

Paul Greaney, the counsel to the inquiry, said two others arrived shortly afterwards and started treating the dying and injured in the room.

"The inquire will need to consider whether that represents a reasonable level of response by an ambulance service," he said.

Salman Abedi's brother Hashem was jailed for life for his role in helping his brother to prepare the device. The inquiry heard last year that the bomber's parents were among six people that police still wanted to interview over the attack.

The Abedi family, staunch opponents of Muammar Qaddafi, fled the Libyan regime and settled in the north-west English city of Manchester in 1994, where they continued their opposition.

In August 2011, the father and his two sons who would later launch the attack travelled to Tripoli to deliver medical supplies and aid to rebels fighting the Qaddafi regime, a report by the UK Parliament's intelligence committee said. The parents had returned to live in Libya before the attack.