A survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing atrocity has finally met the hero he credits with saving his life. Paul Price, who suffered life-changing injuries in the terror attack five years ago next month, said his children would not have a father without the actions of T-shirt and poster seller Paul Reid.
Paul’s partner, police officer Elaine McIver, 43, lost her life in the suicide bombing on May 22, 2017 – one of 22 murdered by Salman Abedi. Mr Reid, 48, was one of the first on the scene after Abedi detonated a device in a rucksack and stayed with Paul, keeping him conscious until an ambulance arrived.
In a new ITV documentary Paul, who gave evidence at the Arena public inquiry, tells how he was waiting for his daughter, Gabrielle, then aged 13, at the concert venue together with Elaine. “I know Paul doesn’t think so, but he’s a hero,” he says. “I was lying on the floor dying and there were a lot of people understandably running away.
“The people paid to run into that situation were being held back so Paul shouldn’t underplay that he was running against the tide. I can’t thank him enough. He’s the reason my kids have a dad.”
Mr Reid, who has suffered from ongoing trauma since the tragedy, had completed first aid training in his previous job as a forklift truck driver, the Manchester Arena public inquiry heard. He also assisted the youngest to die in the bombing – eight-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos.
He says in the new two-part documentary ‘Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing’: “I just tried to help in a bad situation – I’d hope someone was there to help me. It was instinctive to run in and try because I I knew there’d be kids inside who were in trouble.
“The paramedic had patched Paul up, she was holding something on his stomach. I said: ‘I’ll hold that, you go and help somebody else’ and I started talking to him. I could see how badly injured Paul was, that’s why I held his hand I tried to keep him awake and keep his mind off things because I didn’t want him to lose consciousness.
“I could tell he was a Scouser because of his accent so I asked him if he was a Red or a Blue. Then a police officer came and I said ‘this one needs a stretcher’.”
Paul, 54, was carried out of the Arena on the makeshift stretcher – with little medical equipment to hand, stretchers were instead made out of concert railings and advertising hoardings. He has spent two weeks in a coma and eight months in hospital, undergoing an estimated 30 operations for his injuries.
His wounds included severe damage to his legs and hands, burns to his head and throat and loss of hearing in his right ear. He had to learn to walk again and was left with shrapnel wounds throughout his body from the nuts and bolts within the bomb.
The former production operative for a car manufacturer was advised not to meet his rescuer early on in his recovery because he had little memory of the night itself and medics feared talking to Mr Reid might prove traumatic.
But last summer, while filming for the documentary, the pair were reunited at last – and now say they have a special bond for life.
“I tried to look for Paul in the weeks after the attack but I couldn’t find him,” says Mr Reid, from Walsall. “I wanted to meet him and find out what happened to try and get some closure for me. What happened at the Arena has changed my life, I went into a traumatic meltdown the day I left that bomb. Meeting Paul has really helped.”
The first of three reports written after the Manchester Arena Inquiry noted murderer Abedi should have been identified as a threat by Arena security, highlighting “serious shortcomings” and missed opportunities in the hours before the bomb went off. Sir John Saunders’ second report, due this summer, will look at the emergency services response and a third will focus on the involvement of the security services.
Greater Manchester Police admitted at the Inquiry they had made errors on the night of the bomb. The Inquiry heard that with one paramedic was at the scene for the first 45 minutes, many victims were helped by police officers and members of the public. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, meanwhile failed to send anyone to the City Room where the blast happened for more than two hours.
“It was mad in there,” says Mr Reid. “The people you expected to come and help, they just didn’t come. How did all the work and training they do not come into practice? I tried to limit watching the Inquiry every day because it did nothing for my mental health.”
Paul’s partner Elaine was a detective constable with Cheshire Police. “That made it hurt even more,” he said. “I was so proud of her and it was so disappointing we were let down.
“She was the love of my life and I was the love of hers. It’s hard to think about it because it hurts so much but the memories are a blessing because that’s all I’ve got. Elaine was one of those people, if you met her you felt like you’d known her all your life. She would always sort people’s problems out, she was an organizer and a problem solver. She was everything to me.”
Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing will be on ITV at 9pm on Monday – tonight – and Thursday and available to watch on catch-up on the ITV Hub.
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