Jill Keats was on her way to a local mall to enjoy lunch with her sister when she heard horrific sounds of what she initially thought were firecrackers
A witness of the Christchurch mass shooting that left at least 49 people dead and 20 injured at two mosques in New Zealand is being hailed as among the many heroes who sheltered and provided medical assistance to victims during the tragic incident.
Jill Keats was on her way to a local mall to enjoy lunch with her sister when she heard the horrific sounds of what she initially thought were firecrackers. “All of a sudden it got quite violent, and I thought, ‘That’s not firecrackers.’ One fell to the left of my car and one fell to the right,” she recalled to Newshub.
“For a few minutes I stopped the car in shock and I leaned across the seats to try and avoid getting shot. I opened up my driver’s door and got out and a guy comes up and says, ‘Are you alright?,’ and I say, ‘Yeah I haven’t been shot,’ ” Keats said.
However, those around them were already shot or had been shot at.
“The poor bugger lying on the verge had been shot in the back. We opened my passengers’ door and my driver’s door and pulled him around and opened up the back as well to give us some protection,” recalled Keats, who worked with a “nice Muslim guy” to dress the injured person’s wounds with a first aid kit they had retrieved from a third man.
“The guy I was compressing, he was trying to ring his wife and I managed to get it and answer the phone and I said, ‘Your husband’s been shot outside the mosque. Don’t come here to Deans Ave., you won’t get through but please get to a hospital and wait for him,’ ” Keats instructed the victim’s wife.
Throughout the ordeal, Keats kept her focus on reassuring the victim that he would see his wife again.
“I kept talking to him and telling him that she was at the hospital waiting and he wasn’t to give up,” she said. “We just kept pressure on him the best we could until we could get him some help.”
Meanwhile, around the pair were men who had already succumbed to their injuries. “I couldn’t get to [another man] because that was where the gunfire was coming from,” recalled Keats, who heard several ambulances that were unable to get to the scene.
When a Newshub anchor called Keats a hero, she responded, “You just do what you do at the time. I wish I could’ve done more. I’m 66 – I never thought in my life I would see something like this. Not in New Zealand.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed in a news conference on Saturday local time that the suspected shooter was an Australian who used five guns in the attacks, and did have a gun license allowing him to legally purchase his weapons, according to the BBC.
In Friday news conference, Ardern referred to the tragedy as “an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence” and considered it to be “New Zealand’s darkest day,” adding, “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”