Last minute decision saves Wanstead man from Nice terror attack

James Edwards and Partick Rooke on holiday

James Edwards and Partick Rooke on holiday - Credit: Archant

Two tourists said a “random” decision may have saved their lives after they were caught up in last week’s Nice terror attack.

Tributes are placed over the blood stained road where bodies fell on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Tributes are placed over the blood stained road where bodies fell on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, as French detectives are trying to piece together the circumstances that left at least 84 people dead and scores injured after a terrorist deliberately drove a lorry into Bastille Day revellers, before being fatally wounded in a stand-off with armed police. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

James Edwards, 27, and Patrick Rooke, 28, were in the crowd in the Promenade des Anglais when a lorry driver ploughed into innocent revellers as they celebrated Bastille Day.

The friends had been heading for the spot where 84 people were killed, but decided at the last minute to head back to their hotel as they were “tired from travelling and the weather was windy”.

Former Trinity Catholic High School student Mr Rooke said: “People started screaming, the crowd surged and a pulse of people came towards us.

“Everyone started running and I didn’t know what the hell was going on – it was pretty scary.

“If we had done as we planned, we would have been right in the middle of it instead of on the edge – it’s a very sobering thought.”

Events manager Mr Rooke said the decision may have saved their lives.

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Mr Edwards, from Wanstead, said the situation did not fully hit home until they were back at the hotel, inundated with calls from family and friends.

“We ran, but it was not until later that I realised that we had been on the fringe of something big,” he said.

“If we had gone ahead as planned it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Mr Edwards said the response from emergency services seemed slow.

“There wasn’t the sort of response we were expecting, there was one ambulance siren, and the police and the soldiers stationed down the street weren’t moving towards the area – we didn’t realise what was going on at first,” he said.

Determined not to let the attack spoil their holiday, the friends went out the next night in Nice before heading further along the coast to Frejus.

“You have just got to carry on and get on with things – we are from London,” added Mr Rooke.

“Before it happened, the Bastille celebration was a lovely evening with a great atmosphere and lots of happy families.

“We are so thankful that we are OK and feel horrendous for the people involved.”

Redbridge community figures paid their respects on social media to victims after the attack.

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting tweeted: “Terrible news from France. Thoughts with the family and friends of the more than 100 people dead or injured.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the city would review its safety measures after the attack.

Redbridge Conservative Cllr Colin Cronin said: “There is no religion that advocates mowing down innocent men, women & children. “A truly barbaric terrorist attack on France.”