'They were stabbing everyone': How the London Bridge attack unfolded

At 9:58 p.m. on Saturday night, a white van with yellow stripes began to zigzag south across London Bridge.

As locals and tourists ambled along the bustling span of the River Thames, casually taking in panoramic views of the city and the nearby historic Tower Bridge, the vehicle suddenly picked up speed and swerved into the northbound lane.

Watching the van approach at about 50 mph, Holly Jones, a BBC reporter, said her first thought was that the driver must be drunk.

Yet as she watched the vehicle plow into a crowd of people on the sidewalk, she suddenly recalled the attack in March in which a driver killed four people on Westminster Bridge and another outside Parliament.

“It was definitely intentional,” she told the BBC, adding that this driver did not seem scared. “He just looked focused and I’d almost like to say … demented.”

The driver barreled into two people about five yards in front of Jones. Then he aimed the van directly at her.

“I don’t know how I did it or what I did, but I got out of the way,” she said. “I don’t know if I jumped or if I ran. I remember moving and watching the van drive into the couple that were behind me. The screams. It was like a shrill. I’ve never heard a fear like it.”

The van continued south, leaving a trail of victims scattered across the bridge.

As it entered Borough High Street, it crashed into a guardrail outside the Barrowboy & Banker pub.

Bystanders initially assumed it was an accident, until three men jumped out of the van wielding long knives.

According to one witness, the men ran toward pedestrians they had tried to run over.

"They literally just started kicking them, punching them. They took out knives,” the witness told the BBC. “It was a rampage really.”

Another witness, Gerard Vowls, told the BBC that he walked out of the Ship pub after watching the Champions League soccer final over a few drinks and saw a man on the ground covered in blood. Then, he said, he watched as three “guys run up with knives” and stab a woman "10 or 15 times."

The men ran to another tavern, stabbing the bouncer, Vowls said.

“They were stabbing everyone,” he said. “They were running up, going, ‘This is for Allah.’”

Vowls said he chased the attackers, hurling bottles, pint glasses and chairs in an effort to stop them.

“I just tried to help as many people as I could, but at the end of the day, I was defenseless, mate,” he said. “If I hadn’t fallen over, they’d have probably killed me.”

Everyone on the streets scattered as the three attackers headed down stairs leading to Borough Market, a bustling food and drink hub on London’s South Bank, underneath Victorian-era railway arches and in the shadow of the Shard, the city’s tallest skyscraper.

One of the attackers, about 20 years old, wore a blue Arsenal football top and walked calmly around the market with a large hunting knife, Beau Brewer, manager at the Old King’s Head pub, told the Los Angeles Times.

"It was surreal because he was so calm,” said Brewer, 28. “He was walking like he was shopping on a Sunday. That’s the thing that stuck out for me. The knife was down by his side, sort of swinging it like a branch, like a 10-year-old in the woods.”

Witnesses at the Black & Blue restaurant said several assailants stormed into the steakhouse.

“There were people throwing chairs and glasses outside, and I thought it might just be a fight,” Jag Sandue told the Sun tabloid. “Next thing we know, they’re in our restaurant. People were screaming, ‘They’ve got knives!'"

As people fled to the back of the restaurant, Sandue said, a man behind him was cut by one of the suspects.

On Borough High Street, Rhiannon Owen, a 19-year-old student nurse from the town of Nantwich, was standing near a cash machine when she noticed everyone around her was running. All of a sudden, a taxi driver pulled up and screamed at her to leave.

"I turned around and saw this man with this huge blade, and I just ran as fast as I could,” she told London’s Evening Standard newspaper. "I shouted into the pub and said to everyone, 'You need to get inside.' We all went upstairs for, I don't even know how long, and gunshots started, and they went on for ages.”

At 10:08 p.m., police were summoned to the scene. Sirens blared as officers combed bars and restaurants, looking for the attackers.

“What's going on in London Bridge?” James Yates, a London resident posted on Twitter as he huddled in Katzenjammers beer house.

Shortly afterward, he shared a video showing revelers screaming as police officers stormed into the cavernous underground hall and ordered them to take cover under tables and benches.

Fire alarms blasted at the Novotel hotel, and guests reported that police instructed them to run.

“The police didn’t just give directions; they were yelling, ‘Run!’" Zaven Jordan, an Australian tourist, told The Guardian newspaper. “When a fire alarm goes off, you expect to assemble and then go back inside in a few minutes. We grabbed our passports just in case, but we weren’t really ready for this.”

At the Mudlark pub, Alex Shellum saw a young woman staggering inside, bleeding heavily from her neck and mouth.

“Her throat had been cut,” he told the BBC.

The pub was swiftly closed, and fleeing patrons saw medics treating another victim.

“I saw people dying in front of me,” Fred Horsall, a 56-year-old electrician from north London’s Tottenham district, told the Mirror newspaper.

Exiting a nearby underground station, he said, he watched emergency officials struggle to save the lives of two women in their 20s.

“The paramedics were working on them and then had to give up, and they were covered over,” he said.

Nearby, a woman cried by the side of her injured husband.

"His face was all smashed in, and he was breathing deeply,” Horsall said. “He was struggling for breath, and he was hanging on to life."

At 10:16pm — just eight minutes after the first call to police — officers shot dead three male suspects outside the Wheatsheaf pub on Stoney Street.

The attackers were confronted by eight police officers who discharged their weapons, firing 50 rounds, said Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner and national lead for counter-terrorism policing.

The attackers wore what initially appeared to be suicide belts — metal canisters strapped to their bodies. Police later said it was a hoax.

At 12:25 a.m., police declared the incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market to be terrorist attacks.

The attackers killed at least seven people; scores of others were sent to hospitals.

One off-duty Metropolitan Police officer, based in the Southwark borough, was seriously injured in the attack. A member of the public also suffered gunshot wounds when police killed the assailants, and was receiving medical attention, authorities said.

Mark Kindschuh, a 19-year-old student from Brooklyn, New York, said he used his belt as a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood of the bystander who was hit in the head by a stray bullet.

“I couldn’t sleep a minute last night, wondering about this guy, and if he made it or not,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

“To find out that he did is definitely a huge relief.”

Jarvie is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Erik Kirschbaum in London contributed to this report.

ALSO

‘You won’t break us. You won’t break us, ever’; a defiant London carries on after latest attack

Amid chaos in London, Trump makes case for travel ban

Who is Nigel Farage? British politician reported to be 'person of interest' in Trump-Russia probe

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World