By GREGORY KATZ
LONDON (AP) — Manchester’s mayor said Friday the city’s firefighters do not need to apologize for the delayed response to the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena.
Mayor Andy Burnham said front line firefighters were “desperate to help” victims but were kept away by their superiors in the crucial hours after a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured scores more at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22.
He spoke after a report earlier this week by senior civil servant Bob Kerslake found that firefighters were not allowed to go to the scene for more than two hours because of confusion about whether an attacker was still on the loose.
That damning conclusion led to a number of expressions of remorse from chastened fire officials who felt they had let people down at the height of the crisis. Dawn Docx, interim chief of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, made a public apology and said she was sorry the fire department had let people down.
Mark Rowe, a leader of the Fire Brigades Union, said members felt “ashamed” they could not do more to save lives.
Burnham used an open letter Friday to try to quash these feelings of regret. He said it had been “hard” to read of the pain firefighters were expressing.
“While I understand why people feel like this, it is important for me to say that I think that they are wrong,” he said of firefighters who felt they had to ask for forgiveness. “No front line firefighter in Greater Manchester has to apologize for anything. You and colleagues did nothing wrong on that night.
He said the failure was one of “process, leadership and culture” that cannot be blamed on front line firefighters.
The incident began when Salman Abedi detonated a home-made device in the foyer of the arena as 14,000 people streamed out at the end of the concert.