A father drove his 16-year-old daughter and her friend to the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, Monday night with the plan to meet them after the show at the bottom of the stairs just inside the arena.
When he heard a loud explosion, the father, Nick Heyward, feared the worst, but tried to convince himself it wasn’t a bomb.
“I didn’t panic because I knew if I panicked it would only make things harder,” he told ABC News’ Terry Moran.
Once he saw crowds and injured victims pouring out of the arena, Heyward said, “inside, I was going crazy,” with a terrible fear that something happened to his daughter, Kaitlyn.
“Immediately when I saw her, it was like she was born again,” Heyward said. “It was the second best day of my life because the best day of my life was the day she was born.”
Another witness, a teenage girl who was at the concert, said she felt a shake, saw people crying, and then “went out the doors and we saw smoke everywhere.”
“I looked to my right and there was just a decomposed body,” the teen, Natalie Sully, said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” “All you could see was just flesh.”
“Then there was another bang, but we weren’t sure what it was, ’cause it wasn’t as loud as the other one,” she said. “But then everyone was freaking out again, running.”
“To be experiencing that at such a young age, seeing dead bodies, it was horrible,” she said.
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Lydia, a mother who was at the concert with her daughter, Madison, said she saw her life flash before her eyes.
Lydia told ABC News’ Molly Hunter that she and her daughter, Madison, were heading towards the main entrance after the concert when she heard a bang — but she said she didn’t think too much of it. Lydia said she figured the noise was a speaker and that she never would have thought it was an explosion.
It wasn’t until she saw a sea of people running and shouting about an explosion that she knew it was serious, Lydia said.
Madison added, “I remember going out and then hearing a loud bang and then everyone running.”
Lydia said she and her daughter started running but she worried they would be stampeded on their way down the stairs.
Lydia said she was grasping her daughter’s hand tightly, describing the scene as complete panic and chaos. She said lots of mothers and children were screaming.
“We didn’t know whether it was a gunman,” Lydia said, explaining that she was worried if a gunman would be waiting for them as they fled down the stairs.
Witness Joseph Harries told ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” that “people were just trying to get out of the arena as fast as they possibly could after the blast. I was directly in front of the stage at the heart of the arena. I had exactly the same distance to get out of any of the doors.”
“I had my best friend with me and I grabbed hold of her wrist and told her never let go of me,” Harries said. “We just ran, we jumped over chairs, railings to get out of the doors, we had to force open doors that wouldn’t open because people were trying to get to – the entire capacity of the 20,000 person arena were trying to get out of one exit.”
“It felt like an eternity,” Harries said, but it “couldn’t have been more than two, three minutes from in our seats to outside of the arena.”
Harries said he did not see any injuries or fatalities but his friend told him “he’d seen a girl covered in blood and she had bandages. … He said it was traumatic and a horrendous experience.”
The deadly explosion at the concert at the Manchester Arena killed 22 people and injured 59 others. Greater Manchester Police said they were called to the arena just before 10:35 p.m. local time on Monday. The explosion happened near the arena’s foyer after the concert finished, according to witnesses. The venue holds about 21,000 people and is one of Europe’s largest indoor arenas, according to its website.
The man believed to be the lone attacker died at the scene after using an improvised explosive device, officials said, but police are still determining if the attacker acted alone or as part of a wider group, said British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Monday’s incident is being treated as a terror attack and May said the threat level remains at “severe,” meaning the government considers another terror attack highly likely. Severe is level 4 out of 5, with critical being the highest.
May said police believe they know the identity of the suspect but at this stage they cannot confirm his name.
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage,” May said Tuesday.
May said these “innocent, defenseless children and young people” “should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.