herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Irishman shot in Paris theatre attack shielded his girlfriend as gunmen fired on the crowd

TOPSHOTS
People light candles at a makeshift memorial in front of
TOPSHOTS People light candles at a makeshift memorial in front of "Le carillon" restaurant one of the site of the attacks in Paris on November 15, 2015, in the 10th district of Paris. Islamic State jihadists claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 129 people in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium. AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCELOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

The young Irishman who was shot in the worst of Friday’s terrorist attacks in France has been hailed a hero for protecting his girlfriend during the shooting.

The man was at the Bataclan theatre in Paris with his girlfriend when six gunmen opened fire on the crowd.

He was shot at point-blank range with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

He suffered severe trauma to the leg from the impact of a high-velocity bullet.

It is understood that the brave man shielded his partner in a bid to save her from the hail of bullets during the terrifying ordeal.

“He lay on top of her… he saved her life,” a family friend told the Herald last night.

“They’re lucky to be alive. They’ve had a horrendous, horrendous experience.

“It’s been a dreadful experience.”

“They just went to Paris for the weekend and this was the outcome,” they added.

It is understood that the man was injured at the very beginning of the attack – resulting in him having lost a lot of blood before he was treated at the scene by paramedics and then rushed to a Paris hospital.

Last night, his condition was believed to be serious but stable after undergoing surgery early on Saturday morning.

Surgeons

Surgeons are now hopeful he will recover from his injuries.

A source close to the couple said that the pair were understandably traumatised by the ordeal and wished to remain anonymous for the moment. The young man’s family were notified on Saturday and relatives flew to Paris to attend his hospital bedside.

The Department of Foreign Affairs are now providing full consular supports for the family in Paris.

It is believed that the pair only attended the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan as “an 11th-hour decision” during their city break.

“They are a lovely family and hugely respected ... everyone here is now praying for his safe recovery,” one neighbour said.

“From what we have heard he was certainly one of the lucky ones.”

The loss of life at the popular venue surpassed that of any of the other attacks during the night of terror on the streets of the French capital.

Attackers, armed with guns and explosives, opened fire after holding some 100 people hostage during an Eagles of Death Metal concert.

Footage has since emerged of the moment that the shooting began – some eyewitnesses said that they thought it was initially part of the show before they realised what was happening.

Another video captured outside of the venue shows people fleeing through the emergency exits from the gunfire. A woman can be seen clinging to a window ledge, as some people scaled the building amid the panic.

Meanwhile, a young couple who spent the weekend in Paris told of their relief at returning home safely yesterday.

Diarmaid Hickey (21) from Kilkenny and Chloe Breen (21), from Wexford, had travelled to the French capital on Friday afternoon with the intention of spending the weekend sightseeing.

They went out for dinner that night and were returning to the hotel when they first became aware that something major was unfolding in the city.

“We were watching street entertainment at the time. We saw about 12 policemen on motorbikes all going in the same direction. Then we saw that people were gathering around television screens. We learned there had been an explosion,” said Diarmaid.

Tragedy

The couple headed back to their hotel that night, and with the city on high alert they stayed around the hotel on Saturday.

“We had planned to do a bike tour and general sightseeing on Saturday, but that was cancelled, and all the monuments were shut,” said Diarmaid. “There was a very heavy armed police presence in the city over the weekend. I was very vigilant when we were traveling on the metro.”

Meanwhile, Chloe said her phone was “hopping” as people tried to contact the couple to make sure that the were okay after learning of the horrific tragedy.

Diarmaid’s mum, Phil Hickey, was at the airport to meet them yesterday, and told of her horror at finding out there had been a terrorist attack on the city that her son was visiting for the weekend.

“I was watching the news and it came on. It was very frightening. There was absolute relief when I got through and found out they were okay,” she said.

The hotel where they were staying was about 15 minutes from the Stade de France, according to Diarmaid.

“We are just relieved to be home,” he said yesterday evening after arriving at Dublin Airport.

Businessman Eoghan Lucey, originally from Middleton Co Cork, described a sense of “general panic” on the streets of Paris in the wake of the attack.

Mr Lucey owns The Green Linnet bar in the 4th arrondissement, close to where a false alarm was alerted last night.

“We are literally 50 yards from the town hall and we didn’t really know what was happening. It seems to have been a false alarm,” he said.

The businessman has been living in France for 35 years. He said it is “very sad” to see some 1,500 soldiers lining the streets in his adopted home.

“Everyone is [walking around] with a grave face, with their phones out. It’s pretty tense,” he added.

On Friday night as terror unfolded across the city, Mr Lucey said that he and his staff decided to keep the pub open as they were in a different area to the attacks.

“We stayed open in case there was an attack in the area, we could rush 200 people in here if necessary,” he said.

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