Gunfire rings out from Blackpool Tower during Ex Goshawk

Last night saw Blackpool’s promenade closed between North and Central pier in order to facilitate a multi agency training exercise by The Lancashire resilience forum and other partner agencies.

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EX GOSHAWK

Ex Goshawk began around 6pm on the 8th Nov 2022. The first indications that something was about to happen was the setting up of a temporary medical facility on Blackpool’s Famous Comedy Carpet.

It became clear that the scenario about to unfold would involve some vehicles including a Blackpool transport double decker bus and 2 vehicles which were brought to the scene on the back of a car transporter.

The bus arrived shortly before 6pm

 



It became clear that these 2 vehicles would play a part in the scenario.

ACC Lawson

Lancashire Constabulary’s ACC Peter Lawson being interviewed by ITV

Lancashire’s Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson was on hand to give interviews to the press before the exercise began.



We had the chance to speak with the ACC who explained to us that this exercise was long overdue and was designed to test a multi agency response to what he described as a “simulated mass fatality event”.

More units began to arrive on the scene as it became clear to us that this scenario would be based on a fictitious scenario where resources would be deployed already – ie a large public event.

Stephen Cheatley – A walk on the wild side

Stephen Cheatley – AKA A Walk On The WildSide (Youtube)

We were given a rough timetable for the beginning of the exercise and decided to take our pal and presenter of local youtube channel A walk on the wild side – Stephen Cheatley for a coffee. (we also got one for the bus driver who had been sat for over an hour at this point.)

When we returned to the scene it was clear that something was about to happen – 2 police cars with lights and sirens on – could be seen headed along the promenade and into the town centre via chapel street and central drive. As we neared the cordon which had been put in place – we could see that the bus and cars had been set up and what appeared to be “dead bodies” could be seen laying in the road.
These turned out to be training aids.

 

Our best guess at this point was that the scenario would involve a shooter who had caused multiple fatalities and a car crash on the promenade in front of Blackpool Tower.

Soon we would see a number of people loaded onto the bus wearing orange hi-viz vests and we also spotted a group of people wearing Blue vests. These appeared to be from the Lancs resilience forum comprised of LCC and BCC staff.

Police Drone

The police Drone team were testing out a new piece of equipment – the DJI Matrice 300 – a very capable aerial platform equipped with thermal imaging camera, ultra hi zoom video camera and a search light. We managed to speak to the drone team and the operator who was very excited to be testing this new piece of kit not only on an actual training exercise – but also in the high winds we were experiencing on the promenade. These cost about the same as an executive type car.



Crisis Actors

We spotted a number of people filing out of the rear of the Blackpool tower building  and were later told that there would be approx 300 participants helping to simulate the exercise.

At this stage there was only a minimal emergency service presence around the scene.

The “actors” were positioned by the training scenario support staff and we could hear muffled instructions being shouted using a loud hailer but the wind was prohibitive to hearing the content of the messages. It was clear though that the exercise was about to begin.

A full moon became visible from behind the clouds next to the tower as the final actors and “casualties” were positioned.

Bodies in the road

At 8:20 more casualties were laying on the road and the majority of the actors were off to one side waiting and all of a sudden it started with the sound of screams and cries for help.

It became clear that the scenario would start AFTER the initial “attack” had taken place so it still wasn’t clear what the threat was to people standing outside of the cordon. My feeling at the time was this would either be a vehicle borne attack or an active shooter scenario.

The first emergency vehicle to arrive was a fire engine which had been parked on Church street prior to the Ex. By this time people in the crowd were shouting for medics and shouting that multiple people had been shot and were bleeding out. It appeared also that the people inside the vehicles had also been injured and required rescuing from the vehicles.

After 10 minutes – more emergency service vehicles started to arrive on a blue light response. Walking around the perimeter of the scenario – we managed to get a good view of most of the initial action before more emergency vehicles arrived.

Both medics and firefighters helped with assessing the casualties initially – it was clear that there were too many casualties and soon we saw members of the crowd supporting the emergency workers however they could whilst more help came.

Battling the wind

One point to note is that the tin foil blankets used in this exercise were not compatible with the Blackpool wind as many people struggled to wrap their casualties to keep them warm. (It did look like the actors had on multiple layers of clothing though)

More emergency vehicles arrived including Authorised Firearms Officers

North West Air Ambulance Charity

Medics from the North West Air Ambulance Arrived by car and rushed to the front line to assist colleagues with the casualties.

It was at this point that the emergency services appeared to have a handle on the situation but the scene was one of total devastation.

Further units kept arriving one after another from different areas of the county. This was a Lancashire wide response.

Rumours of a shooter

By this point we had heard a rumour that at around 9PM the scenario would step up a gear but we didn’t know exactly what to expect – but we could see that all of the actors had been issues with ear plugs.

Shortly after this image was taken – automatic gunfire rang out from a first floor window at the front of the Blackpool Tower building and many of the emergency service workers dashed for cover as the Firearms officers retrieved their rifles and ballistic shields from their vehicles. This point was very intense.

Muzzle Flash

Muzzle flash could be seen from a first floor window as shots rang out across the promenade.

 



A “shooter” could be seen from the first floor window but soon disappeared.

Firearms officers entered the Blackpool tower building and we could shortly hear the sound of more gunfire coming from inside the building.

More backup arrived

More and more armed response units arrived on scene shortly afterwards – They too entered the building with haste and purpose. Maybe 10 minutes later – 2 more police SUV’s arrived and 8 men dressed in jeans, jackets and ballistic vests approached the building in formation.

We were told by an officer on the scene that these were SFO – specialised firearms officers who are always on standby to turn out to a scenario just like this.
Sadly they were too quick for us to get a decent image of them – but we did capture a really bad image of them if that’s any consolation.

A tense few minutes

Another few minutes passed and more gunshots could be heard from inside the building and we could see figures dressed all in Black carrying guns on the first floor walking calmly in pairs. It appeared as though they were sweeping the building looking for any remaining threats.

 



Hostages released

Next we witnessed actors who appeared to have been held hostage inside the building – running from the building shouting for help. There were 3 waves of hostages that left the building but on the third wave it appeared that someone was stopped and “shot” before they could leave the building – this wasn’t visible from our position but we could clearly hear the police shouting at someone to comply before more shots rang out. We overheard one officer talking about someone being spotted in what was thought to be a “suicide vest”.

More casualties and walking wounded were mustered behind a St John’s ambulance vehicle. Some people by this point had been transferred into the tent that had been set up as a temp field hospital.

Medics were working hard inside the tent on some of the actors who had been made up to look like they had very real injuries.

A crisis actor with SFX make up simulating badly a broken nose

After hanging around the area for another hour or so some of the emergency services were debriefing  – no new developments had occurred so we decided to call it a night.

The exercise was due to continue into the night with closures on the promenade due until at least midnight.

We will have a video roundup of the events available to view soon on our Youtube channel.