NICE — The image of Franck was broadcast everywhere, on television and across the Internet in the hours after last Thursday's deadly terrorist attack in Nice. We got to see the dark and grainy video clip of a scooter riding up alongside the truck plowing through crowds of people on the Promenade des Anglais, in what looks like a desperate attempt to halt the 19-ton vehicle.
Many will be surprised to find out that Franck — who did not want his last name published — is alive. Both from the images in the video and several eyewitness accounts, it was believed that this anonymous hero had died in his brave and risky gesture to stop the terrorist, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel.
But this 49-year-old Nice airport employee with salt-and-pepper hair, has survived. Between two doctor appointments to treat multiple bruises and a fractured rib, Franck granted Nice-Matin his exclusive story. Like so many others, that fateful night began when he and his wife decided to partake in the city's holiday evening festivities, down by the shoreline.
“I actually wanted to go see the fireworks, but we arrived too late. So we decided to get ice cream instead. I remember passing the Magnan intersection on my motorbike and everything was fine. We passed people who were starting to go home.
Once we arrived at the Mediterranean University Center, we felt there was a stampede starting behind us. We heard shouts and my wife said, “Stop, there's something wrong.” When we turned around we saw the crowd scattering in all different direction like they were fleeing something. That's when we saw the truck coming from behind us.
We were in the middle of the road, there weren't many cars around. I must have been riding at about 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph). I did not even have time to glance in my rearview mirror. He hurtled past me. He was driving on the sidewalk. I've got images of bodies flying everywhere stuck in my mind. I immediately understood what was happening. I decided to accelerate. My wife put her hand on my arm and asked where I was going. I stopped and told her 'Get off!'. Then I raced at full speed.
To catch up with the truck, I had to zigzag between people, living and dead. I remember screaming into my helmet. I was completely focused on the back of the truck. I was determined to go through with it.
He continued to drive from the road to the sidewalk, hitting people everywhere. At a certain point, I had almost made it to the back of the truck, because I've got a 300cc bike that accelerates quickly. I wanted to stop him at any cost. I was both in a trance and very lucid at the same time. I managed to get on his left side. My goal was to reach the cabin.
When I caught up with him, I asked myself: What are you going to do with your poor scooter? That's when I launched it against the truck. I continued to run after him. I remember falling and then getting up and running again, as fast as I could. I didn't know what I was doing. Finally, I got to cling onto the cabin.
I managed to climb on to the foot steps below the open window. I hit him again and again and again — as hard as I could with my left hand even though I'm right-handed. I hit him in the face, but he said nothing, he didn't flinch.
He had his gun in his hand, but it was not working. It was as if he was trying to load it but didn't know how to. He pointed it at me, with his finger on the trigger but nothing happened.
I was ready to die. I was lucid and ready to die to stop him. I continued to hit him. I tried to pull him out of the cabin through the window because I couldn't open the f***ing door. He ended up hitting me in the face with the butt of the gun — I got stitches. I fell from the steps and got back up immediately."