Ariana Grande concert insider on moments after Manchester bombing: “Shrieks … panic”

Zack Purciful


LAS VEGAS -- A day after the deadly terror attack in Manchester, England, a man who was in Manchester Arena when the bomb went off just outside described the chaos and confusion he witnessed.

Zack Purciful is a part of the production crew that works behind the scenes of Ariana Grande's tour.  Purciful spoke exclusively with CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV via Skype from England Tuesday night.

Purciful says the moments after the attack were very confusing, as he and the rest of Grande's crew tried to figure out why everyone was scrambling.

"Shrieks and like, basically, panic reaction of retreating from the exit aisles," Purciful said.

With all the loud exit music playing in the arena, when he heard the bang from the device, he wondered whether some of the balloons released at the end of the show had popped -- but that wasn't it.

Purciful says, in the moments following the explosion, he saw young, scared kids scrambling for a safe place to exit the arena.

Purciful, who's from Las Vegas, says it took him a few minutes to realize everything happening wasn't a drill.

"This was the real deal, Purciful said.  "There were bodies."

A fellow crew member rushed to the P.A. system and calmly advised people to slow down and exit carefully.  Purciful said he evacuated the arena as SWAT-like teams with stone cold expressions swarmed the building.
Purciful described their demeanor, saying they had "a full kit, just like you would expect from a group of guys going into a bad situation.  Full body armor, long rifles and a determined look on their face."

Video and pictures showed a chaotic crowd of concert-goers waiting outside the exits. 

"I basically witnessed emergency vehicles all night," Purciful said.  "Sirens and blue lights all night."

In the meantime, some people searched for loved ones.

"I made a quick group text to my family to let them know something happened and that I'm OK," Purciful said.

"Everything we do is for the kids, so for them to target the kids -- it's the most heartbreaking thing in the world," Purciful said. "It's hard to quantify."

Purciful said the ordeal has left him with a "feeling of hopelessness."

The bomb ignited a chain of emotions for every person there, changing 20,000 lives forever.

"This is certainly a wake-up call about the realities of the world," Purciful said, adding that a lot of crew members are staying in London until they figure out their next move.
Around 14 trucks of equipment, staging, and props are still inside the arena as investigators continue to go sift through evidence.