The have-a-go hero French motorcyclist who tried to stop the truck massacre in Nice last week has revealed he was “ready to die” as he punched the driver while clinging to the door of the speeding vehicle.
Grainy footage of the man’s efforts have been watched around the world millions of times on social media.
However, the fate of the motorcyclist was not known until three days ago, when it emerged he was still alive after the attack.
The footage showed a man named only as Franck risking his own life as he chased after the truck. As the truck slowed he jumped onto the vehicle and clung to the door of the vehicle.
Footage ended with Franck disappearing from sight, and many feared he had been killed.
But the daily Nice-Matin tracked him down and he opened up about his heroics
Franck, an airport worker who only gave his first name, spoke while nursing a broken rib, an injured fist, and bruises on his back.
He said he had been “ready to die” to stop Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed 84 people in the rampage.
“We wanted to go see the fireworks, but we left too late. So I told my wife ‘it’s not a big deal, let’s go eat some ice cream’… Everything was going fine. We passed people starting to go home,” Franck told Nice-Matin.
But then the violence began.
“We heard screams and cars reversing. My wife said ‘stop, something is not right’. We saw the crowd running in all directions, as if they were fleeing something. That is when we saw the truck coming,” Franck said.
“He overtook me, driving on the pavement. I can still see the bodies flying everywhere. I immediately understood. I decided to accelerate. My wife pulled my arm and asked me where I was going. I stopped, told her ‘get off’, and accelerated as fast as I could.”
Franck, who is aged in his forties, fell from the bike when close to the truck but continued to run after it.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, I managed to hang on to the door,” he said. “I was ready to die”.
Franck said the driver’s window was down.
“I hit him again and again,” said Franck. “I used my left hand with all my force, even though I’m right-handed. I punched him in the face. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t flinch.
“He had a handgun. But the pistol didn’t work. I had the impression that he was trying to manipulate or load it, I don’t know. He pointed it at me, pulled the trigger, but it didn’t work.
“I was ready to die actually. I was lucid and ready to die to stop him. And I continued hitting him… He ended up hitting me on the head with the butt of his gun… and then I fell off the step [of the truck].”
Bouhlel continued 2km down the promenade before being shot dead.
Meanwhile, furious Nice authorities have refused a request from French anti-terror police to delete surveillance camera images of last week’s deadly truck attack, amid growing questions over the scale of the police presence at the time.
The city received a letter this week from the SDAT anti-terrorism agency saying images of the July 14 attack should be destroyed, an official at Nice City Hall said.
The city is filing a legal complaint instead, arguing that the images could constitute evidence in the case, said the official.
The letter did not provide a reason for the request, the city official said, but Le Figaro newspaper said national police are concerned that the images would leak out and be used for jihadi propaganda.
The request comes as the government faces growing criticism over security measures the night of the attack, and the cameras could show where and how police were deployed.
Top official Christian Estrosi, of the conservative opposition Republicans party, had argued for tougher security for Nice’s Bastille Day fireworks celebrations.
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve acknowledged on Thursday that only lightly armed local police were guarding the entrance to a pedestrian zone on the beachfront promenade in Nice.
Mr Cazeneuve had previously said national police were guarding the closed-off boulevard.
Five people were charged with terrorism offences on Thursday night in connection with the attack.
The Paris prosecutor says Bouhlel had accomplices and appears to have been plotting his attack for months, citing text messages, more than 1,000 phone calls and video of the attack scene on the phone of a suspect.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved