herald

Friday 18 August 2017

'People were banging on the doors and screaming, trying to get out - it was horrific'

Niamh Woods with dad Sean
Niamh Woods with dad Sean

An Irish father has described the terrifying two-hour wait he had to endure before learning his teenage daughter had survived the Manchester bombing.

Sean Woods was unable to contact 19-year-old Niamh, who was working at the Manchester Arena on Monday night, in the immediate aftermath.

The Derry native said he and other family members were watching the news and fearing the worst.

The dad-of-five told Belfast Live: "I was just about to go bed and I saw a post on social media and I just saw Manchester Arena and thought, 'oh no'.

"I can't even describe that moment, I thought I had calmed down since but it was just unbelievable.

"My sons were on the phone looking for news and my wife Bernie was in bed sleeping. I didn't want to wake her at first in case it was nothing.

"For about an hour I tried to contact Niamh and friends of hers in Manchester, and then all of a sudden I saw the news about the fatalities.

Traumatised

"It brought it home the prospect your own daughter was caught up in it."

The 52-year-old did eventually hear from Niamh, who didn't have her phone on her at the time, but the horror she witnessed has left her traumatised.

The university student was working in a locked security room at the venue during Ariana Grande's sold-out gig.

"It was a very emotional phone call. At 19 years of age, to witness that, it wasn't good," said Sean.

"She said there was blood streaming down people's faces, people's clothes drenched in blood and they were banging on the doors and glass of the room she was locked in.

"She and her colleagues were in a locked facility because they were counting the money. They couldn't actually open the door to help anyone or let them in.

"She was just watching people banging and screaming, trying to get out of the way of the blast. It was just horrific for her, she's in a bad state."

Sean said the experience had left the family in a very emotional state.

"She said she never heard a bang like it in her life, it was just so frightening, she's obviously distraught by it all," he said.

Lucky

"I just want to speak to her now, but everything is down at the minute. When you see 22 fatalities and 59 injured, it's just… the thought of your own wee one being caught in that is just overpowering.

"Every five minutes, myself and my wife Bernie break into tears, and we do it because we are so thankful. We are so lucky.

"God help those people who have lost family members. I was listening to interviews of people with children at the concert, wee ones at their very first concert, it's horrific."

He added they are now hoping to get Niamh home as soon as possible.

"Niamh has her last exam on Thursday, which she won't be doing," he said.

"No degree is worth your wee one's life, we're trying to get her home now. You don't have to have a degree to get on in life."

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