A Grantham family caught up in Monday’s terror attack at Manchester Arena have described the moment they were turned away from entering the foyer just seconds before a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 22 people and injuring 59 more.
Clare Goodband, 43, of Kestrel Court, was at the arena to watch American singer and actress Ariana Grande perform her ‘Dangerous Woman’ tour as a birthday treat for her daughter Shanie Stimson, who turned 17 in March.
The mum and daughter had travelled to Manchester with Clare’s partner, Steven Stimson, 43, and son Pierce Stimson, 20, earlier in the day. After shopping and something to eat, the family went their separate ways, with Steven and Pierce heading to the Arndale Centre, while Clare and Shanie started to queue up in the arena foyer for the concert.
Clare said: “It actually took about an hour to queue up before the concert. Once we got to the double doors leading into the foyer, the security checked our bags, removing a Dr Pepper from Shanie’s bag before waving us through.”
Once inside the arena, they found their seats in the ground floor seating section, directly in front of the stage.
Clare added: “When Ariana came on stage just after 9pm, everyone started singing and dancing and having a really great time.
“There was absoutely nothing to suggest what was about to happen.”
The concert finished just after 10.30pm but Ariana surprised fans by performing an encore song. But hoping to beat the crowds, Clare and Shanie headed towards the stairway they had come in by, which led to the foyer where 22-year-old Salman Abedi was to detonate a home-made bomb.
Clare said: “We’d just reached the double doors leading down to the foyer exit, when one of the stewards suddenly put her arm out and asked us to find another exit as it was getting too busy. Just as we headed back down the steps and into another stairway, we heard an almighty bang and the ground shook below us.
“Everyone started screaming and running around in every direction, but one of the workers close by screamed at us to stay put. We stood together for about 15 minutes, until he told us where to go.
“We were still a bit confused about what had actually happened but then people started running towards us saying that they’d been a bomb.
“I grabbed Shanie’s hand and just screamed at her to run. Not knowing if another bomb was about to go off, we felt like we were running for our lives.”
Once outside, they were greeted with a scene of chaos as parents desperately tried to find their children and the emergency services started to arrive.
Clare said: “It was then that I realised that I’d missed several calls from Steve and Pierce. We didn’t have any signal inside the arena, so they were not able to get through. Unbeknown to us they’d actually moved the car from the arena car park to a side street 30 minutes before the concert finished and were planning on calling us to let us know to head there instead of the foyer. I’m just so thankful they did.
“They heard the explosion but unsure what it was, they just kept trying to ring me. It wasn’t until they saw a man crying and holding his two daughters that they realised that something had happened before another man told them that they’d been a bomb gone off inside the arena.”
Clare finally got through to Steven who told them to head towards the street where they had parked the car.
“We were so disorientated that we actually got lost several times before we finally found the street,” she said. “As soon as we saw them, we literally fell into their arms, before heading straight to the car. We wanted to get the kids out of there as soon as we could. They may be 17 and 20 years old but no parent wants their children to witness scenes like that.”
Although the family had parked close to the arena car park, it took them nearly an hour to get out of Manchester.
Clare added: “There was so many people in the streets just milling around looking dazed. Some people had just abandoned their cars in the middle of the road. We tried to go down several roads but the emergency services had blocked them off.”
As they reached the outskirts of Manchester, they stopped off at a garage for a drink and Shanie came across another girl trying to clean blood off herself in the toilets.
Shanie, a sixth former at Walton Girls’ High School, said: “We just looked at each other and nodded. I think we both knew what we had both just been through. After the girl had left, the woman behind the counter explained that she was only 13 years old.”
The family arrived home in the early hours of Tuesday morning but, unable to sleep, Clare watched the news for updates, adding: “Once morning broke and people started finding out what had happened, I started receiving messages and phone calls from concerned family and friends. I’d been updating my Facebook status and posting pictures from the concert earlier in the night, so everyone was worried about us. I’ve had over 100 messages of support on social media.”
Despite being in shock, Shanie still went to school on Tuesday to sit her childcare exam. She said: “I didn’t want to go as I didn’t want to face any crowds, but I had no choice. My exams are important for my future.”
A few days in and Clare and Shanie are slowly coming to terms with what happened but wants to remind people to be careful, no matter where they are.
Clare added: “I’ve watched all the terror attacks on the TV but I never ever thought that my family would be involved in one. Watching events on TV and actually being there is completely different.
“We can’t face watching the news yet, as it just takes us straight back to that moment. I’m sure we will learn to live with what happened eventually, but we are taking it one day at a time at the minute.
“I just want to warn people to be careful no matter where you are. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.”