Sunday 22 September 2019

Hero stranger reveals how he rescued pregnant woman as she clung for life after Paris Terror Attacks

Woman is "safe and sound" after being dragged through window after her desperate struggle to hang on ledge was broadcast around the world

Woman hangs by her fingertips during the terror attack at the Bataclan in Paris Photo: Le Monde
Woman hangs by her fingertips during the terror attack at the Bataclan in Paris Photo: Le Monde

David Chazan, Patrick Sawer, in Paris, and Tom Morgan

She was the desperate young woman whose screams while clinging to an open window became the iconic footage of Paris's night of terror.

“Help, help, I’m pregnant, catch me if I fall," she was heard shouting on blurry video footage, showing her clinging to the upstairs window of the Bataclan venue - where gunmen were at that moment cold-bloodedly shooting dead 89 of her fellow concert goers.

 Watching her plight, as others fled in panic through the streets beneath her, people around the world wondered if she had survived after being dragged back into the carnage.

Now it can be revealed that she - and her unborn baby - are alive and well thanks to the heroic intervention of a stranger.

Le Bataclan concert hall, 50 Boulevard Voltaire, Paris
Le Bataclan concert hall, 50 Boulevard Voltaire, Paris

She sent a message of thanks to her rescuer as he described how they had both cheated death.

The woman was just moments from losing her grip when Sébastien, who declined to disclose his surname, heard her cries.

 “There were two windows in front of me,” he said. “She was dangling from one of them, begging people below for help if she jumped. It was chaos down there as well. I climbed out through the other window and held on to an air vent 15 metres from the ground. I held on for five minutes and then the pregnant woman, who couldn’t cling to the window-sill any longer, asked me to help her get back inside.”

Amid a torrent of gunfire, Sébastien went back inside and pulled the woman back through the window before the pair were immediately separated.

Sebastian told La Province: "She was begging people down below if they would catch her if she jumped. But it was chaos down there. We were 15 metres above the ground. I don't know where she went afterwards."

They were reunited on Monday with messages of thanks she sent him via a friend.

The dramatic rescue was videoed by a journalist on the newspaper Le Monde, Daniel Psenny, who lives opposite the Bataclan, and watched four masked militants armed with AK-47s march into the rock concert where more than 1,000 people were watching rock band Eagles of Death Metal perform.

The young woman's friend, Frans Torreele, said both she and her unborn baby are “safe and sound”. “She needs to rest and doesn’t want to say anything else about what happened for now,” Mr Torreele said.

 Sébastien told how he went back out and clung from the air vent above the windows after helping the woman inside.

“It wasn’t the best hiding-place,” he said. “Five minutes later, I felt the barrel of a Kalashnikov against my leg. One of the terrorists said: ‘Come down from there! Come inside and lie down on the floor!’”

He described how the gunmen fired at people from the balcony of the Bataclan, which was originally designed as a theatre.

“We heard people screaming as if they were being tortured.

"The terrorists said to us: ‘Do you hear the cries, the suffering? It’s to make you feel the fear that people have to suffer every day in Syria. It’s war! And it’s only the beginning. We’ll massacre innocents. We want you to repeat that to those around you'."

Speaking to La Provence newspaper in the south of France, Sébastien told how the gunmen were telling hostages to phone French TV channels.

He said: “They wanted to speak to journalists. But we didn’t get through to anyone. At one point, they asked me for a light and they wanted to know if money was important to me.

"They took out a wad of 50-euro notes and I had to burn them. They spoke French to each other."

He claimed the terrorists were not equipped to blow up the venue - despite their threats.

Sébastien added: “They ordered us to say they had suicide belts and if the police came in, they would blow everything up. But it was a lie. I saw only Kalashnikovs, one of which was stuck together with black tape, and a bag with ammunition.

"They didn’t seem very organised. They spoke to a negotiator on a hostage’s mobile. They had only one demand: that the security forces withdraw.

“They threatened to kill one of us every five minutes and to throw the bodies out of the window. The negotiator got them to agree to let firemen in to take out the injured. Then we waited. Those were the longest minutes of my life.

"I went from hope to feeling resigned to death. I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see the Kalashnikov pointed at me. The terrorists had put two hostages as human shields near the doors. The Raid (elite French police unit) managed to shoot past them without hitting them.

“Then they smashed the door in with a battering ram and threw a stun grenade. When I saw a second stun grenade land near my feet, I knew it was time to flee.

"I ran, the grenade exploded and the blast propelled me under the battering ram. All the Raid members went over the top. I was trampled but it was the happiest pain of my life. I was protected. I was alive.”

Sébastien's account comes after Mr Torreele posted a message on Twitter on Sunday evening to trace her rescuer.

It was retweeted more than 1,800 times before Sébastien’s brother responded by email.

Mr Torreele added: “She wanted to thank everyone who helped her, especially the man who gave her a hand and helped her climb back up,” he said.

He said she was saved by “a series of small gestures, small kindnesses, and at that time of total madness, those tiny gestures accomplished great things. You can hardly imagine how much an outstretched hand, a hand on the shoulder, helped to save people. These people need to thank each other, to hug each other.”

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