Paris terror attack survivors describe bloody horror of Bataclan concert hall slaughter
LOIC Wiels could feel the bodies hitting the floor around him at a Paris music hall where a team of assailants opened fire on Friday in one of France’s deadliest terror attacks. The bullets whizzed so close, he was hit by the wood splinters they sent flying. And under his feet he could feel the blood that poured out of the wounded and the dead.
Wiels is one of four survivors of the assault on the Bataclan concert venue who recounted how he survived. At least 82 other people there were killed.
Just an hour before, Wiels had felt lucky to be among the crowd at the venue in eastern Paris. He had managed to get a ticket at the last minute for the Eagles of Death Metal concert, which was sold out.
In the packed hall, which can hold up to 1 500 spectators, the rock group had been playing for about 45 minutes when explosions rang out.
Someone in the audience joked: “It’s firecrackers.”
Sylvain Raballant, 42, said: “I turn around and I see two guys with Kalashnikovs. They were dressed normally: jeans and sneakers. At first I thought they were shooting in the air. Then I saw people falling over.”
Everyone in the pit, like Wiels and Raballant, hit the floor.
Wiels said: “I saw three attackers, two of them clearly. One looked like a young guy, with a three-day beard. The other was closely shaved, wearing small eye glasses and a yellow beret. He was also wearing what I took for a bullet-proof vest. It was actually an explosive vest.”
Wiels, 33, is now struck by the “in- comprehension in the room”.
“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.”
Philippe, 35, said: “They fired into the crowd and people tried to escape but the attackers said: ‘If you move, we will kill you’.”
He heard the attackers say: “What’s happening to you is your fault. We are avenging our brothers in Syria.”
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the series of attacks on the French capital, including the one on the Bataclan, that left nearly 130 people dead.
As the audience gradually understood they were caught in a siege, they tried to make themselves as invisible as possible.
But cellphones were ringing, quickly followed by shooting. It seemed like every 15 seconds there was another shot.
Raballant saw people getting up and trying to escape and decided to do the same. But a fresh burst of gunfire sent him back to the floor with his head in his hands.
“I couldn’t move anymore. I tried not to even breathe. Next to me, there was a drunk guy who kept saying, ‘We’re all going to die’. A couple of us whispered for him to shut up. There were also people moaning . . . it was horrible,” Raballant said.
Anthony, another survivor, said the fact that he was at the back of the room saved his life as the moving crowd knocked him to the floor.
When he lifted his head, he saw “a bearded guy, no mask, a gun in his hand,” shooting methodically. “I was waiting for the fatal shot. “And then somebody yelled that they [attackers] were gone, everybody wanted to get out. I slipped in a pool of thick blood. We crawled, we climbed over people.”
When Raballant saw the police he ran towards the bar, his hands on his head so as to not be taken for a shooter.
In the meantime, Wiels and Philippe rushed towards the exits.
“I didn’t stop [running] until the Metro,” Philippe said.