France Attack: Eyewitness Says 'There Was a Trail of Bodies'
As the deadly apparent terror attack unfolded in Nice Thursday night, horrified residents watched the carnage unfold from their apartments.
A resident who witnessed the entire episode from the fourth-floor balcony of her apartment, including an extended police shootout with the suspect directly in front her, shares her story and photos with PEOPLE. She explains how France’s national holiday became a day of national mourning after after a truck drove into a large crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 and injuring dozens more.
“We were up on the roof terrace with friends watching the fireworks,” the witness tells PEOPLE. “The fireworks were just over when we heard the screaming and the shooting. It wasn’t fireworks; [it was] definitely gunfire.
“It just became an absolute horror scene,” the witness continues. “Thousands of people running in every way. Screaming. There were dozens – hundreds – injured. People crying, running to get out of the way as the truck came plowing down the promenade towards us. It was a nightmare.”
“It’s difficult to understand; it was unreal,” she continues, her voice choked with emotion. “Surreal. People were running in every direction to get away. Families with children, the elderly, just thousands and thousands of people. Because of the type of event, there were thousands of families.”
She adds, “It was just horrific. People were jumping into the sea to get away from the killing.”
The witness watched the terrifying scene directly below her as police fired into the truck, bringing it to a standstill just yards away from her balcony.
Contrary to earlier reports, she says, “The driver never came out of the truck.”
WATCH: At Least 84 Killed in France After Truck Plows Through Crowds Celebrating Bastille Day In Suspected Terror Attack
“It seemed like an hour between when the police stopped him and when they opened the door to the truck,” she adds. “From our balcony, we saw that he was dropped down in the cab, probably slumped down on the seat, but the police couldn’t tell. They were hiding behind the palm trees, staying back, taking cover because they couldn’t tell whether he was dead or not.”
“There was a trail of dead bodies behind the truck,” she recalls. “There were emergency people doing triage in the street and because of the number of injured there just weren’t enough ambulances. The ambulances ran back and forth all night and helicopters were taking off all night long off the promenade.”
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“There are boats out there now, since sunrise – searching the waters,” she says.
“There were dozens of bodies in the street,” she adds. “They covered the dead with a simple blue blanket and because the night was windy, the blankets just fluttered over many of the bodies until they were able to transport the last ones away before dawn.”
A short distance down the street, ambulances carried the injured to a makeshift emergency ward in the luxury Hotel Negresco.
“There was a lot of medical personnel around because of the nature of the event, but they weren’t able to cope with anything near what happened. There were just so many bodies. The hospitals I know were all filled instantly,” she says.
“As they got more emergency units, more technicians, more ambulances to the scene, they continued all night, going in different directions,” she says.
According to the witness, the bodies were removed from the street, but a crew has yet to clean the blood from the sidewalks and roadway.
“It’s horrible,” says the witness. “People just abandoned everything and ran for their lives. There’s possessions, clothes, all over the road and the beach. There’s peoples shoes in front of the door to our shop.”