The Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice, France, could have been much worse were it not for the heroic actions of one member of the public, who reportedly jumped into the speeding truck and wrestled with the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.
The attack on Thursday left more than 80 people dead, with the attacker plowing a large truck through crowds of people who had just watched a Bastille Day fireworks display. The assailant, later identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, reportedly had guns and ammunition inside the truck and navigated around several roadblocks to conduct the attack, then kept his headlights off as he mowed down dozens of people, suggesting a high level of planning for the attack.
The truck driver in the Nice attack was a local resident who didn’t appear on any French terrorist watch list. https://t.co/EFBZ2021H4— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) July 15, 2016
Though the death toll from the Bastille Day terrorist attack surpassed 80 in the early morning hours on Friday, witnesses said it could have been much worse had it not been for the heroic actions of one man.
The UK’s Independent recounted the actions of the Nice terrorist attack hero.
“Police sources in Nice confirmed that the murderous [one mile] charge of the lorry might have been even longer if it had not been for the courage of a member of the public. They said the man had hurled himself into the cab when the 20 tonne truck was held up by an obstruction. He wrestled with the driver, who seized a revolver and fired several shots at the man and at police officers who arrived on the scene. None was hurt. The driver was then shot dead by two officers.”
Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage in the wake of the attack, with many people pleading with the driver to stop, some not yet knowing that it was an intentional attack.
“I kept yelling at him, waving with my hands to stop and trying to tell him that there is a lot people under his truck – dead already. But he did not give any attention to anyone outside the truck,” witness Nader El Shafei told the BBC (via the Independent).
“And suddenly I saw him picking up something like a cellphone. I thought he would call the ambulance for the accident but it seemed that I was wrong, because he just picked up his gun and he started to shoot the police.”
Though the attack made for a day of mourning in France and across the globe, the story of heroism from the unarmed man gave at least one bright point. It was also reminiscent of the last major attack in France, when a team of terrorists unleashed a bombing and shooting attack in Paris that left 130 people dead.
Amid the carnage of that attack, there were several stories of individual heroism, especially during the siege at the Bataclan concert hall. As gunmen stormed the hall, killing scores of people and taking others hostage, many nearby residents and even some inside the concert hall rushed to help.
In one iconic scene captured on video, a pregnant young woman clung for her life from a second-story window in an attempt to escape. After realizing that the fall would be too far, the woman got trapped and was unable to pull herself back up. But a stranger who had taken cover in an air vent left his hiding spot to help the woman, dragging her back into the building, the Sydney Morning Herald noted.
The man, identified only as Sebastien, ended up being captured by the terrorists when they swept into the bathroom. He was brought to a place with other hostages, but he was saved when French special forces stormed the concert hall, killing the terrorists.
The person who captured the video, a resident who lived across a short alley from the concert hall, also left the safety of his home to help the many wounded people who had fled out a back door. The man ended up being shot by the terrorists, but he survived.
Authorities have not yet named the Bastille Day terrorist attack hero who wrestled Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel from the seat of his truck.
[Photo by Sasha Goldsmith/AP Images]