The family of a Derry student who witnessed the horrific aftermath of a suicide bombing while working at Manchester Arena were today arranging for her to return home.
Niamh Woods was in a security room at a bar in the Arena when the bomb detonated shortly after 10.30pm on Monday night.
The 19-year-old later described scenes of horror to her parents, as those wounded desperately tried to gain entry to the safe room which was locked through a special mechanism as staff were counting cash at the time.
Her parents Sean and Bernie had to wait an agonizing two hours before their daughter could get word to them that she was physically unharmed.
Like many working at the Arena, her belongings, including her mobile phone, remain in staff lockers today.
Niamh, who is just finishing her first year of a Forensic Psychology Degree at Manchester University, eventually managed to make contact with them through a flatmate.
Sean said: “Niamh is at university over there and works in the bar in the evening.
“They were in a locked room, a secured room with glass doors on it counting the takings from the bar when the explosion went off.
“They were quite close to it and they couldn’t get out of the room.
“They witnessed mummies and daddies running up the corridor and kicking and hammering at the door to try and get out of the way, with blood over their faces and clothes. It was quite traumatic for them.
“We see things like this on TV every other day and we all have the conversation about it, saying how terrible it is, but that is just words. It doesn’t actually mean anything until it actually comes home to yourself.”
Sean said the two hour wait for word about their daughter was “indescribable”.
“I was just going to bed when my son contacted me and it started to filter through about the explosion. I was on Twitter and wondering, is it a hoax? Just trying to make sense of it.
“I knew she was working there. When she finishes work at 10.50pm she phones me and she has a ten minute walk to her apartment, and I talk her home to make sure she is safe.
“She didn’t call and I saw the explosion.
“I managed to stay calm for 40 minutes but then I was panicking.
“I sat there and Sky News had it on and I just seen the report of the fatalities and I bawled like a baby.”
Sean and his wife Bernie contacted many of Niamh’s friends. Sean said they were “brilliant” in their efforts to help,
When Niamh was able to get word through to her parents, Sean said: “We just collapsed at that stage.
“It was the prospect of it. She could have been maimed or killed.
“She is coming back home now. Her words to me last night were ‘Daddy, please get me home’.
“It is going to take a lot of time for Niamh to get over it.
“She absolutely loves Manchester, but that is going to change everything.
“It is devastating for all those families,” he added. “This was kids out having a good time.”