Sunday 4 December 2016

Terror in Nice: 'The truck was just cutting through the crowds'

Irish say 'all hell broke loose' as revellers fled

Grainne Loughran and David Raleigh

Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30

Stephen Milton (right) with his boyfriend Ben Terry at the fireworks display
Stephen Milton (right) with his boyfriend Ben Terry at the fireworks display

Stephen Milton and his boyfriend Ben Terry were enjoying their evening at the Bastille Day festivities when "all hell broke loose" in Nice on Thursday.

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"We were on the promenade watching the fireworks, loving the atmosphere of the Nice summer evening," Stephen told the Irish Independent. "We were at the turn where the truck did the damage. Within half a minute there was a trickle of people running, then there were more and more. We heard the gunshots and then we were gone. We ran, we sprinted."

Roisin Begley, Mary Egan, Mollie McGann and Roisin Howard, sitting on a wall at the beach promenade in Nice, prior to Thursday night’s terror attack. Picture:Press 22
Roisin Begley, Mary Egan, Mollie McGann and Roisin Howard, sitting on a wall at the beach promenade in Nice, prior to Thursday night’s terror attack. Picture:Press 22

Stephen and Ben were standing at the epicentre of the attacks, near the Hard Rock Café.

"If we didn't move off the promenade when we did, we easily could have been wiped out by it," said Stephen.

"Everyone on the street was panicking. We ran into a restaurant storeroom, we holed up there for an hour. One person pulled down the shutters, but every time they pulled them up to let people in, we felt very vulnerable."

Both living in Dublin, Stephen and Ben are staying in an apartment just 2km from the scene of the attacks.

Another witness, Robert Greene, was just feet away from the lorry as it swerved down the Promenade des Anglais and said he saw it "cutting through people". He has been working as a barman in the Irish pub Ma Nolan's.

"Before he got to us, I thought it was just an accident," said Robert, who is originally from Coolock in Dublin. "Then he went past and we could see him swerving around all over the place. Different people were getting hit by the side of the van and others were getting knocked by the front of the van and run straight over."

Robert and his group of friends took shelter in a restaurant near the beach.

Read more: Irish barman was just 10ft from bloody carnage in Nice as he watched truck driver plough through men, women and children

Robert Greene
Robert Greene

Read more: 'It was absolute carnage...I can’t put it into words' - Irish in Nice describe horrific Bastille Day attack

He stayed in an apartment with his friends on Thursday night. "It was a short night's sleep, but a very long night," he said.

Meanwhile, students from Limerick described the horror of the events as they were enjoying Bastille Day celebrations on the beach.

Mollie McGann (17) and three friends Roisin Howard, Roisin Begley and Mary Egan - all students at Laurel Hill Coláiste, Limerick - said they just "ran in panic". "We were all just running, trying to get home as fast as we could," Mollie said. "There were tears because we didn't know where the rest of our friends were."

Valerie Roe with her husband Denis Flannely in Nice
Valerie Roe with her husband Denis Flannely in Nice

The four students travelled to Nice over two weeks ago, to live with a local family and brush up on language skills ahead of their Leaving Cert exams next June.

"Once the truck had gone further down the prom, we crossed over (it), and we saw loads of plastic (body) bags and loads of dead bodies on the roads," Mollie said.

Irish PR agency owner Valerie Roe was returning to her hotel, the Radisson Blu on the Promenade des Anglais, when she and husband Denis Flannelly witnessed a scene of utter chaos.

"We were driving back to our hotel and we just caught the end of the fireworks as we were coming in. We just saw loads of people running towards the car, screaming. We had no clue what was going on. It was just mayhem," she said.

Thady Nolan, from Portlaoise, has been living near Nice for 14 years. His bar, Ma Nolan's, is just 50 metres from the promenade. The bar went into lockdown on Thursday night during the attack.

"Anyone who knew Ma Nolan's ran in," said Thady. "We just pulled in our terrace, got everyone inside, locked the doors."

The bar opened the day after the attacks to give people a place to go, according to Thady.

"It's a shocking thing that happened but we can't let these people win," he said.

Irish Independent

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