World

Homeless heroes cradled dying woman, pulled nails out of kids

Crowdfunding websites set up for two down and out men who helped victims of the attack

MANCHESTER: A homeless man who was begging at the Manchester Arena as the suicide attack went off has been hailed as a hero after cradling a dying woman in his arms.

Mr Chris Parker, 33, had been begging in the arena foyer where suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his device late on Monday, killing 22 people.

Amid the carnage and chaos as people began to leave the concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, who has a large teenage following, he rushed to help victims.

Mr Stephen Jones, 35, who had been sleeping rough near the arena in the north-west English city, also ran to help deal with the gruesome aftermath.

People have raised thousands of pounds to pay them back.

A tearful Mr Parker told the Press Association news agency: "I heard a bang and within a split second I saw a white flash, then smoke, and then I heard screaming.

"It knocked me to the floor and then I got up... My gut instinct was to run back and try and help.

"There were people lying on the floor everywhere.

"I saw a little girl... she had no legs. I wrapped her in one of the merchandise T-shirts and I said, 'Where is your mum and daddy?' She said, 'My dad is at work, my mum is up there'."

I haven’t stopped crying. The most shocking part of it is that it was a children’s concert.Mr Chris Parker

He believes her mother died.

Mr Parker, who has slept rough in Manchester for about a year, often goes to the arena to beg as crowds head home from the 21,000-capacity venue.

He came across another woman, who died as he tried to comfort her.

"She passed away in my arms. She was in her 60s and said she had been with her family," Mr Parker said.

"I haven't stopped crying. The most shocking part of it is that it was a children's concert.

"There were nuts and bolts all over the floor. People had holes in their back. It's the screams I can't get over and the smell... I don't like to say it but it smelled like burning flesh."

A crowdfunding website set up for him has raised more than £10,000 (S$18,000).

It was set up by a Mr Michael Johns, who said he felt compelled to help "one of our most vulnerable in society who showed great selflessness and courage".

He said he was not yet in touch with Mr Parker, but was trying to track him down through journalists who spoke to him.

Mr Stephen Jones, a former bricklayer who has been sleeping rough for more than a year, recalled wiping blood from children's eyes after dashing to help.

"It was a lot of children with blood all over them, crying and screaming," he told ITV television.

"We (he and his friends) were having to pull nails out of their arms, and a couple out of this little girl's face."

Mr Jones said it was "just instinct" to help. "If I didn't help I wouldn't be able to live with myself walking away and leaving children like that."

A crowdfunding page for him has also raised £10,000.

"Just because I'm homeless, it doesn't mean I haven't got a heart," he said.

"There's a lot of good people in Manchester who help us out, and we need to give back too." - AFP

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