PSNI knew someone was 'trapped' in Greenvale Hotel crush
THE first PSNI officers to respond to the Greenvale Hotel tragedy, which claimed the lives of three teenagers, were aware that a person was "trapped".
There has been growing criticism of the police response since the tragedy where three teenagers were killed outside the St Patrick's night disco in Cookstown.
Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and 16-year-old Connor Currie died in a crush among hundreds of young people as they queued to get in.
Earlier this month The Irish News revealed that responding officers withdrew from the scene for 16 minutes before returning to the hotel grounds.
Police said officers withdrew to await further support while attempting to get more information about what was happening.
However it can be revealed that police were aware that someone was “trapped” when they first arrived at the scene.
A solicitor acting for the family of one of the victims, last night said the new information added weight to calls for an independent investigation.
In a review of statements given to The Irish News, details show that on March 19 PSNI district commander Superintendent Mike Baird confirmed that officers “arrived at the Greenvale Hotel within one minute of the initial call of a male who was trapped at the scene”.
It was a further week before police admitted that officers - who had been tasked to the scene - had withdrawn to await support.
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Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said at the time that “following their initial assessment they made attempts to establish more detail and information about what was happening and subsequently withdrew to await further police support”.
This appeared to contradict a statement issued the morning after the tragedy where police said officers had "arrived within two minutes of the call from the ambulance service and quickly secured the scene.”
Earlier this month The Irish News revealed that police, who arrived at the scene at 9.29pm, waited in the cars for five minutes before leaving the hotel grounds and travelling a short distance to the Drum Road where they remained for a further 11 minutes.
It is believed they spoke to Greenvale owner Michael McElhatton by telephone before taking the decision to leave.
When an ambulance arrived at the scene at 9.45pm PSNI officers followed it into the hotel car park on foot.
It has now emerged that during that a time, one of the victims, believed to be Morgan Barnard, was carried from the surging crowd by other young people and hotel door staff at 9.40pm.
Solicitor Darragh Mackin, who represents the parents of Morgan Barnard, last night said the new information supported calls for an independent investigation.
"Our clients are naturally shocked to learn that the police had reports of someone trapped, yet decided to leave the scene. This recent revelation, coupled with the disclosures made in recent weeks, compels the need for an independent investigation.
"There is now a greater need for an independent body to scrutinise the facts, and to come to a conclusion which enables the family to understand fully what happened that night, as opposed to the current piecemeal and intermittent disclosures received from a variety of sources.”
The PSNI said last night that because of an ongoing investigation by the Police Ombudsman it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.