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Best moment of my life again, says father who found daughter after blast

Nick Haywood had travelled with daughter Caitlin and her friend and was waiting outside ready to collect them when the suicide bomber struck.

A father said finding his 16-year-old daughter in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena blast was “the best moment of my life all over again”.

Nick Haywood, 46, had travelled by train from Nottingham with daughter Caitlin and her friend, also 16, and was waiting outside the venue ready to collect them when the suicide bomber struck. Luckily they had agreed to meet at a different exit point from the foyer area.

Describing the explosion, he said: “You could feel it, you could feel the noise. It was incredibly loud. My first thought was to find my daughter. People were already starting to filter out. You could tell something was wrong, no-one was laughing or chatting. Some people were running, a bit of mild panic.”

“I was trying to get hold of them on the phone but the network was down so I made my way into the arena. I got halfway up the stairs when I got through on the phone. Seeing her on the stairs was a huge relief. It was like she was almost born again. It was the best moment of my life all over again.”

(PA Graphic)

His daughter, who turns 17 next week, said she had planned and saved up for the trip for months.

She said: “We were so excited when the day came and we were listening to her music on the train. We were so excited, but it turned out to be be a bad experience. When people said it was a balloon or a speaker, in the back of my head I knew it was a bomb and we needed to get out. I thought the next minute people with guns were going to start coming in.”

She said she and her friend were one row behind the front of the stage when the blast took place and she said people were getting crushed as they panicked and ran for the exit.

Emergency services outside Manchester Arena on Monday night (Peter Byrne/PA)

“As soon as Ariana Grande left the lights went out and the bomb went off,” she recalled. “That made me think that this person planned it so well.”

After the group were reunited they went back to their hotel before returning to the scene to see if they could help.

Mr Haywood, who works in computer technology PR, said: “When you could see someone was stressed or alone, people were gathering them up and saying ‘we will get them back to you’. I saw taxi drivers say ‘who wants a lift’, minicab drivers as well.”

He added: “This is just a pure attack on life. Ninety five per cent of that crowd were teenage girls. I can’t understand why you would want to attack such a target.”

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