The deadly rampage along the Nice seafront last night (July 14) might have been even worse but for the bravery of one unidentified civilian.
Eyewitness Eric Ciotti, a local lawmaker, told Europe 1 radio (link in French) that a person of “extraordinary courage” leapt onto the truck as people tried to flee from its path.
“A person jumped on to the truck to try to stop it,” he said. “It was at this moment that the police were able to stop the terrorist.”
Ciotti said the driver, since identified as Tunisian-born Frenchman Mohamed Lagouaiej Bouhlel, tried to shoot the person with a pistol but missed. Police, including at least one woman, then moved in and killed the man.
“I will never forget the look of the policewoman who intercepted the killer,” Ciotti added.
French president François Hollande, also suggested in a news conference that at least one policeman was killed trying to stop Bouhlel: “I have tears in my spirit about this young policeman who acted so that killer should be neutralised, and put an end to the carnage.”
The man who jumped on the truck was not the only member of the public who showed immense bravery. A German journalist told Agence France-Presse that he saw a motorcyclist chase the truck (video) and try to enter the cabin before falling and being pulled under the wheels.
Numerous eyewitnesses have shared cameraphone footage of the carnage along the Promenade des Anglais, as people ran in all directions, including into the sea, to try to escape. Bystander Nader el-Shafei filmed the footage of police shooting the truck driver.
The death toll now stands at 84, with dozens injured, many of whom are in critical condition.