Balloon tribute in Leyland to Manchester bomb victim Saffie

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Balloons soared high over Leyland tonight to mark a birthday so cruelly snatched away from little Saffie Roussos.

The adorable youngster would have been nine today.

But the Manchester Arena terrorist attack meant she never saw the emotional celebration of her short, but colourful life.

Friends and neighbours hadn’t wanted the day to pass by unnoticed and so organised the balloon release in her honour.

And that was added to by a mini-fun fair which sprang up outside the family’s chip shop in Hough Lane.

Children, friends and well-wishers enjoyed a bouncy castle, an inflatable slide, a ride and stalls.

Pub-goers from nearby premises showed their support.

Then after a minute’s silence the crowd released their balloons into the air.

Family friend Mike Swanson thanked everyone who turned up and helped to make the event happen.

He said: “I’m speechless. I can’t believe that this has happened in the space of just 12 hours.”

He then led them in a rendition of the Robbie Williams anthem Strong.

A track by Saffie’s favourite artist Ariana Grande also got the birthday party going.

An onlooker said: “What a lovely celebration. Saffie would have loved it.”

Saffie’s dad Andrew, big sister Ashlee and brother Zander also marked the occasion by making sure she was remembered on national TV, something fun-loving Saffie would have appreciated.

“We didn’t just want to let her birthday pass,” said Andrew in a first interview broadcast by the BBC on the big day.

“Saffie loved the limelight. She was a joker, she was a huge character. She was everything you could wish for in a little girl.

“I know that Saffie would have loved her pictures to be on and to be spoken about on TV.”

Sadly Saffie’s mum Lisa was unable to witness it – she is still in hospital recovering from the awful injuries she suffered in the blast which killed 22 people leaving a concert by Ariana Grande.

In the BBC interview dad Andrew said: “You couldn’t be out with Saffie without having fun.

“But her dream was to be famous, it was her everything.

“Lisa is fighting. She has got that many injuries around her body. She is like a soldier.”

Mike Swanson, who arranged the balloon release, said Lisa had her latest operation on Monday to help rebuild her arm.