Paris attack survivors: Italian man first escaped Heysel stadium disaster, then Bataclan massacre
Some played dead as the gunmen scanned the room looking for new victims; others ran for their lives as soon as the shooting started. Stories of courage, fear – and sheer luck – have emerged in the wake of Friday’s terror attacks in that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured.
But Massimiliano Natalucci, an Italian tourist, was coming to terms with his second lucky escape, 30 years after he survived the in which 39 people died. Then, as on Friday, the 45-year-old escaped unharmed.
Natalucci’s family told Italian newspaper Corriere Adriatico that he had suffered only scratches on one leg in the venue, where 1,500 people were attending a concert by the US band Eagles of Death Metal. By the time the shooting ended, 89 concertgoers were dead.
A friend who attended the concert with him was not so lucky and had to undergo an operation on Saturday after being hit in the shoulder.
“The terrorists were just three metres from them the whole time,” Natalucci’s father told the paper.
Natalucci was aged 15 when he and his father and uncle were caught up in the mayhem at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, when a wall collapsed just before the start of the 1985 European cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, killing 39 people.
The weekend’s were filled with survivors’ graphic accounts of the carnage.
“A body fell on me – it emptied blood on my legs,” according to one eyewitness in the Bataclan quoted by .
“My neighbour, a man of about 50, was shot right in the face, in the head. I tried to keep my eyes on the floor, it was an immense flood of blood.”
Another concertgoer, named as Célia, said: “I saw the assailants clearly. I think there were four. Their faces weren’t hidden. All very young, in their 20s. Not especially handsome, but not at all devilish looking. They wore big tunics, one beige and two all in black. The one in the beige tunic had a short beard. They were all Middle Eastern types but spoke French without any accent.”
Another survivor remembered one of the attackers telling the crowd they were about to pay for French airstrikes in Syria.
“My cellphone was lit because I was going to film parts of the concert, but I didn’t have it out,” Célia added. “Good thing, because those who took theirs out were killed immediately.”
Among the other music fans inside the Bataclan was Jerome Bartelemy, who described how he
“Then I turned around and saw two young men, no older than 25, with Kalashnikovs,” he told the BBC. “They told us to lie down … there was one who kept gesturing for us to get down. I was under other people, and they kept shooting, but they would stop from time to time.
“At a certain point, I turned around, and we were wondering if they were real bullets or not, and I saw him shoot someone and then I understood.”
Another witness, speaking to the French newspaper Le Figaro, said everyone at the venue threw themselves to the floor as soon as they realised their live were in danger.
“It was chaos,” the eyewitness said. “I turned around and I saw a guy with an automatic weapon firing into the air. Everyone got on to the ground. From that moment, instinct kicked in. With each volley you try to get as far away as possible from the gunmen – impossible to say how many, it all went by too quickly.”
Isobel Bowdery, a 22-year-old South African graduate, of her bloodstained top, after enduring 45 minutes of terror at the Bataclan.
“As I lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you,” she wrote on Facebook.
Convinced that her boyfriend, from whom she had become separated, was dead, Bowdery attempted to stay as still as possible. She later thanked other hostages for helping her through the ordeal, including “the man who reassured me and put his life on [the] line to try and cover my brain whilst I whimpered”.
Michael O’Connor, from South Shields in England, threw himself on top of his girlfriend to protect her. They both survived after playing dead, while other people nearby were picked off by the gunmen.
“What they want to do is to terrify us,” O’Connor told Stephen Nolan show. “We can’t let them win and these people just, they’re just monsters, they’re just, they don’t represent anything, they’re not Muslims, they’re not, they’re just animals.
“How can you walk in there, I mean, I’m 30 years old, I was probably the oldest, one of the oldest people in the gig. It was full of teenagers and, you know, people in their early 20s going to see a band.”
Liberation newspaper talked to three friends, Gregoire, Thomas and Nicolas, who were at the concert.
One said: “They were shooting everyone in the bar. Then we saw movement in the crowd. It was like a gust of wind in a wheat field. Everyone fell – dead, injured or alive.”
An Australian, John Leader, was at the Eagles of Death Metal concert with his 12-year-old son when the shooting started. “The lights suddenly went on ... Everybody went quiet. It was clinical. All you heard was bang, bang, bang,” Leader
The 46-year-old said he and the people around him froze, fearing the slightest move could make them a target. “Everyone was thinking: if I move I’m dead,” he said. Leader, who lives in Paris, pushed his son behind a mixing desk. “He tried to get up but I told him: ‘Stay down, these guys are killers.’”
The father and son left the venue 10 or 15 minutes later after a fellow hostage confirmed that the gunmen had left the building.
The Eagles of Death Metal had been on stage for about 45 minutes when the first explosions rang out, according to Loic Wiels, who heard bullets whizz past him as he lay on the floor.
The 33-year-old described the “incomprehension in the room”, telling AFP: “I felt the blood on the floor, the shockwaves of the people falling around me. I got hit with woodchips sent flying by the bullets, but in the balcony nobody realised what was happening.”
Wiels rushed towards an exit and escaped as soon as he noticed the gunmen moving upstairs.
Jean Pierre, a dentist, how a family dinner at a restaurant on Rue Charonne had turned into an evening of terror.
The Frenchman, who asked for his surname to be withheld, had just entered a restaurant next door to the La Belle Equipe – scene of one of the six attacks carried out on Friday – with his adult son and daughter when they heard shots.
After taking cover at the back of the restaurant, he went out into the street. “What I saw was absolute carnage,” he said. “I saw people die. I saw people die. I had people die in my arms. There wasn’t anything you could do to help them.”