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Manchester Arena workers from Northern Ireland lucky to be alive

By Leona O'Neill and Donna Deeney

A barman from Londonderry caught up in the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday night has said he is lucky to be alive after the bomb exploded just yards away from him.

Andy Breslin was one of a number of people from Northern Ireland who witnessed the terror of Monday night's attack at an Ariana Grande gig.

Andy, from Ballyarnett in Derry, works in a bar in the Manchester Arena, close to where the bomb detonated.

The 26-year-old said that when his bar was rocked by the explosion at around 10.30pm, he hid behind the bar, fearing a gun attack was inevitable.

"It was the loudest thing I ever heard. I got my staff around the back of the bar, locked the door and turned off the lights," he said.

"I knew straight away it was an explosion, the noise was deafening and the noise of all the people running and screaming was really horrendous. I wanted to keep my staff safe as the fear was that there might be someone with a gun coming next.

"Some people were saying the explosion was a firework but it was far, far too loud for that. The announcer started saying, 'Everybody calm down, everything is fine' - but we could all smell smoke by this stage and the place was becoming cloudy with dust and smoke."

Andy said the sound of screaming will haunt him forever. When he ventured out to see if it was OK for staff to leave he was met with a horrific sight.

"When I came out of the bar there was one girl being attended to by paramedics," he said. "She was conscious but her face was just covered in blood. It is honestly the scariest thing I've ever experienced. I didn't know what to do.

"As we walked out of the arena we were still unaware of how serious it actually was. Some people were still screaming but others were calm. The bomb went off literally just around the corner from my bar. I must walk past that area at least five times every night. I am so lucky to be alive.

"I didn't know anyone had died until I got home and switched on the news. There were so many people who lost their lives, a lot of them so young. It's heartbreaking, so very sad. I feel awful for their families, my heart goes out to them."

Sean Woods from Ardmore in Co Londonderry, whose daughter Niamh was also inside the Arena, spent two agonising hours not knowing if she had escaped or if she was among the dead and injured.

Mr Woods said: "I turned on the news and couldn't believe what was unfolding in front of my eyes. I just went into a sheer panic which got worse when I couldn't reach Niamh. I went upstairs and woke her mother but I couldn't even speak to tell her I was crying so much.

"We watched the television and tried to get through to anyone who may have seen Niamh but it was two hours later before we finally got connected.

"Niamh rang me on her friend's phone and told me how she had been locked inside a room inside the arena because she was helping to count the cash.

"She heard the explosion and then seconds later she could see all these young children and their parents running past, covered in blood and terrified.

"They were locked inside the room with no way out, petrified that there would be a second bomb and they would die.

"She was still terrified and crying when she was speaking to me even though at that stage she was back at her student accommodation. She just said, 'Daddy come and get me' - so that is what we are going to do."

Another Derry native, Emmett McGilloway, described the moment he felt the ground shake beneath him as the bomb exploded.

Emmett, now a student in Manchester, was at his part time job as a suite attendant inside the arena when he was caught up in the atrocity.

With no way to let his family back home know he was safe, Emmett posted on Facebook, writing: "The whole ground shook and everyone just started running. It was surreal, shocking experience. I can't believe it.

"Scariest night of my life."

Employees at the arena are not permitted to have mobile phones with them while on duty but Emmett did manage to get in touch with his father Paul in the early hours.

Mr McGilloway, who was in Barcelona on holiday, said he was never so glad to hear his son's voice. "Emmett rang us on a friends phone around 2.30am and he was in a bad way, he was clearly in shock and upset. It was very hard on me as his father to hear my son so upset and not be close enough to him to give him a hug. I think we are going to get Emmett back home even just for the weekend or else we will go and see him. We just want to be with him. We are so grateful to have him safe and sound," he said.

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