A father has spoken of his horrifying ordeal after getting caught up in the Manchester terror attack with his young daughter.
Russell Windle, from Oswaldtwistle, had taken eight-year-old Mia to the Ariana Grande concert as a Christmas present.
They were among thousands of people in the crowd at the Manchester Arena before the venue was hit by a suicide bombing.
Russell, 32, told the Observer how the explosion happened just seconds after the end of the concert and Mia was forced to ‘hold on to me for dear life’ as they fled the arena.
He said: “Ariana came out to do her last song and then 30 seconds after she had gone through the curtain we heard this dull, but very loud sound.
“It wasn’t a ‘bang’ but my goodness me it was loud.
“I instantly knew it there was something wrong. People were saying it was a balloon or a speaker which had exploded but I knew in my heart it wasn’t.
“There was a very eerie five-second silence and then everybody started piling out of the exits. It was just chaos.
“There was screaming and crying. People were piling in and getting crushed.”
He added that he put Mia under his armpit and she managed to hold on to him for dear life in the commotion. Russell, from of Durham Drive, praised the bravery and temperament of his daughter as they fled to safety.
The head chef at The Lounge in Ramsbottom said she has also had great support from friends and staff at Hippings Methodist school, where she is a pupil.
He said: “It was her main Christmas present. She was looking forward to it for months and then all of this happens.
“She is a massive fan of Ariana as she has watched her from the TV programmes and absolutely adores her.
“She loved the concert. It’s shook her up a bit but she is doing so well.
“When she got to school all the kids ran to her. I was getting messages off parents asking if she was all right.
“I can’t speak highly enough of her.
“There were older girls around us screaming and in floods of tears and Mia kept so calm. She didn’t shout.”
Russell said he is still struggling to come to terms with what happened on Monday night and is now wary of going to concerts again.
He said: "I’m mortified. I burst into tears on Tuesday morning. I can’t get it out of my head.
"There was a girl who died the same age as Mia and I just think I’m so blessed to be home with her.
"We had an absolutely fantastic night until then. To think that you can go to a pop concert and not go home from it is very life changing."
Our sister paper the Manchester Evening News is running an appeal in aid of the victims of the attack and their families, which has already topped £1.5 million. You can donate here
Were you or one of your loved ones at the concert? Contact our team on 0161 211 2977 or email@example.com.