A Heysham teenager has described how a decision to stay for a final curtain call at a pop concert where a suicide bomber struck may have saved her life.
Twenty-two people, including children, were killed and 59 injured in the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester Arena on Monday night.
People fled the 21,000 capacity venue after an explosion at 10.35pm at the end of the concert by the American singer.
Rachel Simpson, 17, has described how her friend, Aiden Taylor, also from Heysham, asked her to stay an extra five minutes, which could have saved their lives.
“Aiden is the reason we are probably still here, because he kept us there at the end for another five minutes to see whether Ariana would come back out on stage, if it wasn’t for that we probably would have been in that explosion,” said Rachel.
Rachel was in the standing area of the venue, near to the stage with friend Aiden Taylor, also from Heysham, when she heard the explosion.
The teen, who had a life-saving bone marrow transplant last year, heard the sounds of her cousins’ screams as they tried to grab her attention from the lower tier.
“Everybody was running, it was pure screams of terror,” said Rachel.
“We wondering if there was a gunman, we were convinced we were going to get shot down, we stood in shock.
“On the way out my cousins were on the lower tier, they were screaming to me, they were calling out to me, I heard my name but I was thinking there must be other Rachels in here, then I turned and spotted them.
“My youngest cousin was in tears, they were really screaming my name, I was telling them there were going to be safe.
“I couldn’t get to them, it was horrible, I wanted to make sure they were okay, thankfully they got picked up.”
Rachel believed the “massive bang” was a balloon as several were released during the final songs of the concert.
“Everything was great, it was a good night, everyone was in a good mood,” said Rachel.
“We got to the last song, she finished about two to three minutes later, everyone started to leave then suddenly we heard this massive bang, we thought it was a balloon.
“Then screaming, everyone running away from the corner, all that was going through our heads was are people being shot?
“Everyone was being rushed towards the exit but not being let out.”
Rachel explains they began to leave the other way but was told by a man to “go back, it’s not safe there.”
As they were taken out through the back exit Rachel said she seen many hiding under barriers and heard a voice over the loud speaker for people to “remain calm and not to worry.”
As the friends stepped outside armed police rushed towards them, warning people to move.
Rachel and Aiden stayed in the area and came across panicked children trying to find their parents.
“Our batteries were running out on our phones, we didn’t know our way around Manchester,” said Rachel.
“We kept asking officers and they said everything is fine, another one said that it was a sound speaker which blew up.
“It wasn’t until we started walking forward to try and find people’s parents that we found out it was a bomb.
“We didn’t know what to say, all that was going through our heads was the kids that were there that have probably just died or watched their friends die.”
The friends offered their phones to others as they headed towards the nearby Premier Inn hotel.
“We found a lot of other people trying to find their parents, we offered our phones but they didn’t know their parents numbers,” said Rachel.
“We headed to Premier Inn to try and contact them on Facebook, we walked in and could see people having fits and thankfully the paramedics came.”
Rachel rang her mum, Donna, as soon as they were outside the arena.
The friends found Aiden’s parents, who were picking the pair up, near to Chapel Street some time later, at around 1.30am.
Rachel got home in Heysham at around 2am on Tuesday morning where her mum Donna was waiting eagerly.
Rachel said: “I am still in complete shock, I feel traumatised by it.
“I’ve seen all these faces of the victims on social media and I spoke to some of them, I seen some of them walk past.
“When I got home me and mum just sat on the sofa together for about an hour and I eventually went to my room.”
Donna Simpson said: “I am just glad Rachel and her friends and cousin’s are all okay, my thoughts go out to the people that aren’t.”