Eyewitness reports from Nice: ′Every five meters there were lifeless bodies′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.07.2016
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Eyewitness reports from Nice: 'Every five meters there were lifeless bodies'

Several journalists who were in Nice when a truck ploughed into the crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day have shared their experience of the events. Here are some of their accounts.

At least 84 people were killed and scores were injured when a man drove a truck into the crowd celebrating the French national holiday in the coastal city of Nice on Thursday night. It's another shock to France after several attacks recently shook the country to its core.

German journalist Richard Gutjahr was in Nice as a tourist when the terrorist attack happened. On Twitter, he emphasized that he wasn't livestreaming the events via the Periscope App.

Instead, Gutjahr sent his material to his editors at public broadcaster ARD in Germany. TV news show "Tagesschau" tweeted one of his clips after reviewing it. It shows the truck driving down the road before it accelerated and crashed into the celebrating crowds. People run away screaming as shots are heard. Later, Gutjahr went from his hotel room to the streets and filmed police men and victims on the scene.

(Richard Gutjahr/ ARD)

Just after the fireworks had ended, "a truck appeared at the very end of this street," Gutjahr told DW. "Now it didn't really move fast, it slowly went its way. But just the bare existence of a truck in the middle of a crowd - that didn't seem to be right and that was the moment when I started filming."

Gutjahr recalled a motorcycle that drove up to the truck, with the biker unsuccessfully trying to open the truck's door. The scene seemed like "straight out of a movie," the journalist told news magazine "Spiegel Online."

He reported that at the next intersection, police opened fire and the truck driver accelerated and started running over people.

'Every five meters there were lifeless bodies'

"I saw bodies fly like bowling pins," French journalist Damien Allemand said. A journalist at the daily "Nice Matin," he was celebrating in the city and shared his experience for online publishing platform "Medium." When the horror started, Allemand was at the beach. He heard screams and initially thought that someone had lost control of fireworks that were going off into the crowd. Then he realized how wrong he was.

After taking cover at a restaurant, Allemand went back into the street.

"The Promenade was deserted. No noise. No sirens. Not a single car," he recalled. "Every five meters (15 feet) there were lifeless bodies, body parts... Blood. Whimpering."

"A lot of people were running into restaurants and bars that were shutting down, but they actually opened them up [again] for shelter," Adrian Brijbassi, a journalist based in Vancouver, Canada, told Canadian news website CBC News. Brijbassi wanted to meet up with friends in Nice and arrived at the waterfront right after the attack.

Hiding behind flower pots

"I was panicking," Anna Kessler said. The reporter for Germany's mass-market daily "Bild" had dinner at the Negresco restaurant facing the beach promenade in Nice. Just after the fireworks were over, she saw the truck drive by.

"My boyfriend was wondering about the high speed of the truck because the street was supposed to be blocked off because of the parade," she wrote in her account on the "Bild" website. "The truck was followed by several police cars. I [heard] shots."

Kessler and her boyfriend first hid behind large flower pots on the restaurant patio then sought shelter inside.

After several hours, they were able to leave and returned to their hotel.

'Everyone next to me or behind me was either injured or dead'

Janine Konopka, a journalist with southern German public broadcaster SWR, was in Nice celebrating with her mother.

"We went to the sea after the fireworks were over and were going to walk toward a band," Konopka told "SWR3."

But then, Konopka recalled, she heard screams and had to act in a matter of seconds.

"At first I thought 'What kind of monster is that?' I just screamed 'Watch out!' and pushed my mother to the side and on the ground, of course, and I also lost my shoes. The truck caught my leg a little bit. But everyone who stood next to me or behind me is either very, very critically injured or they died."

When they heard the shots shortly after the truck had passed them, Konopka and her mother hid behind a palm tree before they made their way to a nearby casino. Those seeking shelter there were later told to leave because officials needed the casino for the injured - and the bodies.

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Witnesses describe Nice truck attack

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