PARIS (Reuters) - In the chaos of the explosion at the Comptoir Voltaire cafe, one of several targets hit in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, nurse David instinctively sought to help the wounded.
Among them was a man lying amid overturned chairs and tables. David, who asked to be called just by his first name, lay him down. The man did not look to have massive injuries, but appeared unconscious, so David began CPR, the cardiopulmonary resuscitation he’d been trained for.
When he tore open the man’s t-shirt, David quickly realized that what he initially thought was a gas explosion at the cafe close to the Bataclan music hall where gunmen killed 89, was actually something far worse.
“There were wires; one white, one black, one red and one orange. Four different colors,” he told Reuters. “I knew then he was a suicide bomber.”
The man David was trying to resuscitate was Brahim Abdeslam, one of those involved in a series of deadly attacks that killed 130 people at bars, restaurants, a soccer stadium and a music hall. No one other than Abdeslam died at the cafe.
In an amateur video obtained by Reuters, two men can be seen from outside the cafe trying to resuscitate a man lying on the floor. One is believed to be David, the other is unknown.
Near them, another person lies wounded on the floor amid spatters of blood.
“The first wire I saw was red. I think that was the detonator,” David said. “There was something at the end.”
As soon as he realized the person he was trying to save had just tried to kill him, David says the fire services arrived. Among them was a fireman he knew. He told him what he had just seen. “He looked at me and started shouting for everyone to evacuate,” he said.
David, 46, who works at a Paris hospital, knows the Comptoir Voltaire well, living in the neighborhood.
He had been having dinner with a friend that Friday night. When the waitress brought their dishes, the explosion went off.
“There was a huge flame, there was dust,” he said. “I immediately thought it was the heaters. I screamed, ‘cut off the gas’. There was panic, people started running out ... I left the dining area and went on to the terrace.”
He first helped a woman, then a young man lying on a table, conscious but bleeding. A helper took over and David went to Abdeslam. “At this point, I never thought he was a suicide bomber, he was a customer like everyone else,” he said. “I thought that after the gas explosion, he must have gotten hurt.”
David says he did not see Abdeslam walk into the restaurant. He believes he had been sitting at the terrace when he detonated the bomb.
“He had a large opening on his side, about 30 cms (11.8 inches),” he said. “When you lift a t-shirt and you see wires, you know that’s not normal.”
David says police told him that Abdeslam’s bomb had not fully exploded.
“(Later), I was thinking about how I lay him on the floor, with me doing CPR. It’s a pretty vigorous process. By just doing that, I also could have been gone,” he said.
Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Pauline Mevel; Editing by Andrew Callus and Ian Geoghegan