French Train Attack Eyewitness Describes Harrowing Ordeal

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An eyewitness on the Paris-bound high-speed train where a gunman armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a box cutter unleashed an attack described the harrowing moments when the gunman opened fire.

"I literally and I know it's going to sound clich but I literally saw my life flash before my eyes," American passenger Christina Coons told ABC News today. "The moment that the gunshots occurred and I saw a man bloody like fall to the floor I thought to myself, I may die today."

Coons said she was vacationing in Europe -- her first vacation out of the United States -- and was sitting in the first car on the Amsterdam-to-Paris train Friday evening, when she said she heard a gunshot and immediately dove under her seat. She said she pulled the tray table down over her so she had "something else" covering her head besides her hands.

"I vividly remember, while I was underneath there looking across the way to another woman who was under her seat and she looked absolutely terrified, as did I, I'm sure, and I remember mouthing to her, like, 'What's happening? What's going on?'" Coons said. "People were screaming ... and we were all underneath the tray tables and underneath the seats hiding."

"I was thinking about terrorism but I definitely thought Oh my god, is he going to shoot the whole train up? Are we all going to die?' You know, that thought was very real. In my mind, very real," she added.

French authorities have identified the alleged gunman as Ayoub El Khazzani. Four American passengers, two civilians and two U.S. servicemen, were credited with subduing the suspect after he had already fired a shot that wounded one of them. Coons said she saw that passenger, now identified as Mark Moogalian, collapse on the floor just a few feet from her after he was shot.

"It all happened very quickly, but almost immediately after I went under, what I had seen was a man bleeding profusely on his neck," she said. "I assumed he was shot in the neck since I heard a gunshot, and he had this duffle bag in his hand that he dropped in the seat adjacent to me...As soon as the bag went down I was like, 'oh, oh my goodness.'"

Coons said she didn't see the struggle of the gunman being taken down, but he could hear "yelling and moans and groans and grunts... and the man who fell was moaning as well, in pain."

Moogalian was the first person to disarm the gunman before he was shot in the neck, according to a statement today from Moogalian's family. He is currently at a hospital in the intensive care unit.

"It was a very scary moment because what I saw was the man fall to the floor, right? And then I saw, I actually for a split second saw a rifle that was being carried," Coons said. ""I later found out that that was the paramedic and that must have been he had taken the gun from the man, but at first I thought, 'oh my God, is that the assailant?'"

"I very quickly heard that that was the guy that identified himself as a paramedic and he said it out loud several times to assure everyone in my car he said, don't worry guys, I'm a paramedic I'm going to help this guy out, you know, we're going to figure this out,'" she added.

At a press conference today in Paris, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22, of Roseburg, Oregon, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, 23, of Carmichael, California, and civilian friend Anthony Sadler, 23, a senior at Sacramento State University in California, detailed what happened when they took down the gunman after Moogalian had been shot.

According to Sadler, the trio were initially sitting in a different carriage, but a bad wifi connection led them to get up and move to what became the scene of the attack.

Stone said the sound of the gunshot woke him up from "a deep sleep," and when he turned and saw the gunman, his first thought was about "survival, to survive and for everyone on the train to make it." Stone said he put the attacker in a chokehold, but the gunman kept pulling more weapons. The attacker started jabbing at Stone with a box cutter and all three friends began punching and hitting him to subdue him.

Once the gunman was hogtied on the floor, Stone went to help Moogalian, and said he used his fingers to stop bleeding in the Moogalian's neck.

"I'm impressed with them. Not even just impressed, I'm amazed by their quick wit," Coons said. "So human nature, we either fight or we flee and many of us our natural instinct was to dive under the tables and run away. They took action and they took him down and they took care of the situation as best they could so that only three people, while it's terrible three people got hurt, at least they're alive today and it's because of those men."

The men were awarded France's highest medal, the Legion of Honor, today at a ceremony with French President Francois Hollande. Coons said she wants to tell them thank you.

"I would shake their hands and give them big hug, you know, and tell them that they are heroes," she said.

ABC News' Emily Shapiro, Kirit Radia and David Chiu contributed to this report

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