Wednesday 17 January 2018

'It was mayhem': shocked tourists return from Nice

James Browne, from Raheny in Dublin, who was in the Cote d’Azur for three weeks before the attack. Photo: Tony Gavin
James Browne, from Raheny in Dublin, who was in the Cote d’Azur for three weeks before the attack. Photo: Tony Gavin

Robin Schiller

An Irish father-of-two has described how he desperately attempted to help those seriously injured and dying after the terror attack in Nice on Thursday night.

Thomas McKenna (38) from Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, was on the verge of returning to his hotel room after an evening with his family on the Promenade des Anglais when the chaos began.

Thomas McKenna, from Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. Photo: Tony Gavin
Thomas McKenna, from Miltown Malbay, Co Clare. Photo: Tony Gavin

"It was myself, my brother and his wife. We stayed to look at the fireworks and have a drink or two. Literally on the last drink, the whole thing kicked off 20 yards away from us, (with) this white truck leaving dead bodies behind it," Mr McKenna told the Irish Independent.

"There were bodies lying everywhere, it was absolute devastation. A couple of us ran out onto the road, these people were just lying there dying, just kids.

"It was absolute carnage, women were on the ground with their faces busted. I went over to a guy who was lying on the ground and his stomach was literally spilled out on the ground in front of him, it was horrific. I can't put it into words," he said.

The Clare native then attempted to help those who were seriously injured, but was rushed off the street by the local police.


"I was just numb, but I tried to get out there and do something but the problem was we were so unsure at that stage, there was talk of seven more terrorists and a hostage situation, there was a whole host of issues.

"We tried to help people but the Gendarmerie put us back inside the cafe, it was two hours of chaos after that and fear, pure fear. I'm just glad to be back home," Mr McKenna said. Another Irishman described how he witnessed the truck leave a trail of devastation in its wake and heard "50 gun shots in a few seconds".

James Browne, from Raheny, Co Dublin, spent three weeks in the Cote d'Azur before the callous terror atrocity.

"The fireworks finished at 10.21pm, so we moved slightly to the left where a rock band were playing.

"I turned around and within 20 yards a truck flew by . . . there were thousands of people on the street and there was just a trail of bodies after it went by - babies, old people, everyone, they were just lifeless on the ground," Mr Browne said.

"We just started to run after that, and then we started to hear gunshots. It was crystal clear that they were gunshots because the fireworks had finished. It lasted no more than about a minute.

"We ran in the opposite direction and got back to the apartment. Everything was just silent, it was horrific.

"It was just mayhem, people were jumping over railings and onto the roofs of restaurants.

"It was only when we ran away from the lorry in the direction he came from that I realised he had driven onto the promenade.

"He had been zig-zagging. We saw people on the promenade injured, dead. The fear was there was more people involved."

Mr Browne had visited Nice on four previous occasions, but was forced to return to Ireland early on the advice of the local consulate.

He commended the actions of the local police, who were quick to neutralise the perpetrator, named as French-Tunisian national Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel (31).

"I do think the security forces should be commended, and there was a lot of them," he said.

Irish Independent

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