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Briton on facing train attacker: 'I'm probably going to die anyway, so let's go'

Briton on facing train attacker: 'I'm probably going to die anyway, so let's go'
Britain's Chris Norman speaks with the media at the police headquarters in Arras, northern France, on Saturday after helping to subdue a gunman on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press)

A Briton who helped overpower a suspected terrorist on a high-speed train in France described on Saturday subduing the gunman and praised the heroism of two Americans who led the charge.

"Without them, we probably wouldn't be here," Chris Norman, 62, a Briton living in the south of France, said at a televised news conference from the French city of Arras.

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Norman gave an account of how the U.S. servicemen, along with himself and others aboard the train, leaped into action when the man began shooting Friday.

"I was sitting in the coach working on my computer. I heard a shot. I heard some glass breaking, then I saw someone running down the aisle toward the front of the train. I was facing the back.

"I stood up to see what was happening and saw a man carrying what I think was an AK47 or some kind of a machine gun. My first reaction was to sit down and hide.

"Then I heard someone, an American, say. 'So, go get him,' then another American saying, 'Don't do that, buddy.'

"At that moment, I thought it was the only chance to act as a team and try to take over the terrorists," Norman said. "I jumped up and I was fourth person to begin working on the terrorist."

Norman described how a man identified by the U.S. military as Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone overpowered the suspect and put him in a neck lock while his friend, identified as Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, took the man's gun.

"I grabbed his right arm," Norman said of the suspect. "There was a French man, I think a train driver, who came to take the left arm. We succeeded in controlling him, then got him to the ground."

Norman said he tied up the gunman with a tie while Stone, though suffering knife wounds, attended to another injured passenger.

"It's very difficult to understand what happened. My thought was, I'm probably going to die anyway, so let's go. I'd rather die being active than sitting in the corner doing nothing."

Norman speculated that the assailant's gun jammed, preventing him from firing more.

"We're very lucky," he said. "What can you do? Either you sit down and die, either you get up and die. We've seen enough of these kind of attacks to know that they will kill everyone once they get started."

The suspect "put up quite a bit of a fight. Spencer is a very strong guy, he held him very well."

Norman, who said he was in the Netherlands for his business helping African entrepreneurs find financing in Europe, went to Reading University and said he had two grown up children, one of them serving in the French navy.

"I am just beginning to realize what we did. I'm happy we managed to overcome this person without the loss of life."

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"I just want to go home and spend some time with my family."

Willsher is a special correspondent.

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