Monday 23 April 2018

'The fear in people's faces told us we have to run' - Irish people describe Nice Bastille Day terror

People react after the tragedy. AFP/Getty Images
People react after the tragedy. AFP/Getty Images
The truck which slammed into the crowd that had gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the Riviera city of Nice. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
French forensic police continue their investigation as they gather clues the day after a truck at high speed ran into a crowd killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
French soldiers advance on the street after last night's terror attack. Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
Twitter feed video grab courtesy of @harp_detectives of people running away. Photo: @harp_detectives/PA Wire
French soldiers cordon off the area after a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
The lorry, its windscreen riddled with bullet holes, is guarded by police (AP)
Ambulances line up near the scene of the attack. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Emergency vehicles near the scene of the attack (AP)
Forensic officers examine the scene of the attack (AP)

Brian O'Reilly and David Young

An Irish man who was just metres away from the scene of the Nice terror attack has said the fear in people's faces told them it was time to run.

Stephen Milton from Dublin was on holiday in Nice and was at the celebrations.

"We were enjoying the fireworks, it was a fantastic atmosphere. The fireworks stopped and probably within 5 minutes of that chaos  and pandemonium broke out", he told Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One.

"We had gone down a side street, 30 seconds later we see some kids running but we didn't pay too much heed. But then we saw more and more people. The fear in people's faces told us we have to run now as well.

"We had just been at he spot where the truck caused the most devastation. It was only when we turned the corner and the running started that we heard the gunshots."

They ended up in the store of a nearby restaurant with other terrified revelers.

He said initially some of the restaurant staff were suggesting it could have been an accident.

"The fear and the devastation of the French people that were with us said it all.

Meanwhile, a young Belfast woman has told of her horror after the lorry slammed into the crowd.

Laura McGarrity and boyfriend Christopher Lismore fled the beach in terror.

"We were on the beach when it happened - at the most we were 300 metres from the attack," Laura told the Belfast Telegraph last night as panic gripped the Riviera city.

"There were thousands of families at the beach to watch the Bastille Day fireworks.

"The firework display had just ended and families had just started setting off their own on the shore.

"You could hear the sirens in the background, but I thought it was French police being overcautious - we had noticed a tense atmosphere on the lead-up to and during the Euro 2016 final.

"The sight of hundreds running towards us... I couldn't help but think of Tunisia," added Laura, referring to the beach attack in Sousse in which 38 tourists died. It is also just eight months since Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people in Paris.

Laura said that terrorism was on everyone's lips as panic spread.

"Hundreds of people ran along the beach not knowing what had happened - but all muttering ISIS," she said.

"A young couple told us a man went into the crowd with a Kalashnikov and killed lots of people.

"We didn't believe it, and walked into the old town.

"Walking through the quiet, narrow streets, I felt like I had escaped the madness of the beach, but suddenly there was lots of screaming and people running through the old town. It seemed the news had just hit them."

Paddy Mullin, from Derry, told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland: "The next thing I saw this lorry coming, ploughing, the streets were closed and this lorry just mounted the kerb across the street form us.

"All you could hear was banging and shouting and screaming."


Dermot Mulhall, who is originally from Kilkenny but living in Nice for the last three years, said he was a couple of blocks away from Promenade des Anglais when the tragic events occurred.

Mr Mulhall said a large group of his friends were all attending the celebrations and fireworks last night, but he decided to stay away. 

He could hear the crowd’s screams when he got a phone call from a friend telling him not to come near the area.

“We heard screaming. That was the first thing we heard, which would be unusual here for that time of night. It’s unusual to see mass running and screaming.”

“There was a group of friends down there watching it and the plan was to go there and sit down on the beach.”

“Straight away the phone rang and it was one of my friends who had been on the upper end of the promenade.”

“She rang to know ‘was I on it?’, something was after happening, and wanted to know ‘was I Ok?’ She said ‘stay away from it, we don’t know what’s happening’. She headed home straight away.”

For the next few hours, Mr Mulhall and his friends were reaching out to all their friends to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for.

“The next couple of hours was basically making sure everyone was OK. We made contact with almost everyone by 3am.”

 “It came through a few minutes later a police officer had informed a friend of an attack.”

Last night, from about 11.30pm, Nice’s streets were deathly quiet, which would never happen on Bastille Day – which Mr Mulhall described as “France’s St Patrick’s Day”.

“It’s Paddy’s Day to them. There would have been a huge amount of people on the beach with picnics and bottles of wine.”

“The Mayor of the region asked us all to stay in. It was immediately alerted. The streets went very quiet afterwards. People took the message, everyone stayed in, Bastille Day would never be that quiet.”

“I was walking at 7.30am today and it does make you look over your shoulder as you’re walking along. Around 11.30pm last night the streets were emptied.”

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