The fireworks off Nice’s famed boulevard had just finished and Adelaide couple Tim and Evie Timotheou decided to call it a night.
Holidaying in France, the couple had revelled in the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations on the windy summer’s night on the bustling promenade of the Riviera city, but though the festivities were to continue, the tired pair headed for their rooms at their beachside hotel.
Then, “I heard an almighty thud and I wondered what it was,” retail sales manager Evie tells WHO. “Seconds later I heard gunshots. We saw people running in different directions.”
It was a run for their lives. At around 10.45 PM that night, as families, couples and parents wheeling strollers meandered beneath the palm trees of the French city’s Promenade des Anglais, a Renault Midlum cargo truck barrelled into the crowd, leaving a bloodbath in its trail.
The truck, which authorities say was driven by Tunisian-born Nice resident Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, continued for 2km, taking the lives of at least 84 people, including 10 children.
Three Australians were among the more than 120 injured in France’s third terror attack in 18 months, which turned its national day of celebration into a day of mourning.
“We saw people screaming, children crying, calling out to parents,” says Evie, 54. “People were jumping over fencing and landing on the beach below.”
Says Perth law student Chloe Gelmi, 22: “People were running toward us. We followed not knowing what had happened."
Zigzagging as it sped down the street, the truck mowed down people where they stood or strolled.
“I saw a giant group of people running towards us in panic,” says Melbourne website developer Rhys Lawry, 23, who was holidaying in Nice. “Without time to think we ran with them, knowing they were running from something terrible.”
Around that time, Marcus Freeman and his wife, Sally-Anne, were “walking casually with the crowd,” he says, when the truck approached, as it was being fired upon by police. “The next thing you know, ‘Bang, bang, bang,’ all this gunshot,” says the father of one. “It felt like it was three or four metres behind me.”
The couple ran to their nearby hotel, where they led a bleeding mother and her two young children up to their room. “The mother was shaking and crying, absolutely at her wits’ end,” says Freeman, 45. “It was a nightmare.”
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