Quebecers recount Bastille Day horror

The Nice attack, which killed at least 84 people during the city's Bastille Day celebration and left 52 more in critical condition, was narrowly avoided by Quebecers who found themselves surrounded by corpses and corralled into hotels by police.

Eyewitness accounts from Quebecers in Nice during Thursday's attack

Police escorted people to safe locations in the aftermath of the Bastille Day attack in Nice. (Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Laurie Jones flew from Montreal to Nice on Thursday, arriving just in time for the city's Bastille Day fireworks, which light up the 19th-century promenade that snakes its way along the Mediterranean Sea. 

As the fireworks display came to an end, Jones began walking away from the crowds that had gathered by the seaside.

She was checking her phone, when a loud noise made her look up. That's when she saw a large truck plowing through the mass of people, tossing bodies about with horrific ease. 

"People were flying in the air. It was really, really a horrible sight," Jones told CBC Montreal Daybreak. "The truck passed and I saw bodies on the road. They looked like rag dolls."

Laurie Jones was vacationing in Nice before the Bastille Day attack. (Courtesy Laurie Jones)

Jones crossed the median to offer help to those left in the truck's wake. But then, behind her, gunshots began to ring out.

She ducked into the posh Le Royal Hotel, where she took cover. Several metres down the road, French police were exchanging gunfire with the truck driver.

The shoot out brought an end to the rampage. But not before 84 people were killed, and more than 50 others were seriously injured. 

Jones compared the scene to a horror movie. 

"It was a killer truck," she said. "It was just there to kill people."

'Screaming and gunshots'

The heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed on the Promenade des Anglais. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Another Quebecer, Jean-Francois Dussault-Turcotte, was in a restaurant off the Promenade des Anglais when a truck began its two-kilometre onslaught along the waterfront promenade. 

"We heard screaming and gunshots," Dussault-Turcotte said. "People jumped onto the beach to save themselves."

He stayed in the restaurant for an hour before police lead him to the nearby Hotel Negresco with about 500 other people.

Hotel personnel took care of the traumatized attack survivors by offering them water, blankets and pillows. They waited for a few more hours before police let them leave through the back exit of the hotel.

"Crossing the street we saw the crime scene — about fifteen bodies to the left and right covered in blankets,"  Dussault-Turcotte said.

French expats in Montreal 

French expats were gathered at the French Union in Montreal to celebrate Bastille day when they learned about the deadly attack in Nice. (CBC)

On Thursday evening in Montreal, French expats had gathered at the French Union on Viger Avenue to celebrate their country's national holiday.

Organizers interrupted a concert to inform revelers of the tragedy, and then paid tribute to the victims with a minute of silence.

That was followed by a rendition of the La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.  

"Sadness. That's really the first word that comes to mind," said Alexandre L'Hour, a student at the University of Montreal who has lived in Quebec for four years. 

Expat Henri Chebeir said he was overwhelmed to hear about what happened.

"I've been in Canada for ten years now, and it's still very affecting to hear this kind of news. I don't know what else to say," he said.

"To know that my country is touched by this enormous sadness, it's terrible, with all that happened in Paris," said Antoinette Martin-Baeucker, adding that she had never seen such a violent disturbance in her country before.

A corpse lies next to a doll in Nice after a truck drove over a crowd during the city's Bastille Day celebration. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

with files from Radio-Canada, CBC Montreal's Daybreak