Bermuda's athletes safe after Boston bomb blast
At least 16 of Bermuda's top athletes were caught up in a suspected terrorist bomb attack which left at least three people dead and more than 140 injured during the Boston marathon yesterday afternoon.
Two explosions went off just yards from the finish line of the race at Copley Square, killing three, injuring scores of others and instilling fear and panic into crowds of spectators who had gathered to witness the climax of the race. It was later confirmed that none of the Bermuda contingent taking part in the race had been injured in the attack.
Governor George Fergusson today spoke of his “deep sorrow at the loss of life and the terrible injuries”.
He said in a message to Boston's Mayor, Tom Menino: “I wanted to let you know how much the people of Bermuda feel shock, sadness and solidarity with our neighbours in Boston today. Margaret and I recall the streets and many of the people involved vividly from my time in Boston as Consul-General, and very many Bermudians are just as familiar with the city. You and the city have our admiration, sympathy and warm support.”
Mr Fergusson has written in similar terms to Boston's Police Commissioner, Ed Davis, a spokeswoman said.
Yesterday's blasts occurred a few seconds apart at around 2.45pm local time, some two hours after the first of nearly 27,000 runners had crossed the finish line. The first explosion left a big plume of smoke hovering over the area. The second, on the opposite side of the street, took place about ten seconds later. A further two suspected bombs were later found in the area by authorities.
Video footage showed how the run-in to the line, which was packed with spectators, erupted into chaos when the first blast went off, sending crowds fleeing in every direction.
Another explosion hit the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, about three miles from the marathon finish line, but it was reported that this was not caused by a bomb and was not related to the Copley Square attack.
Last night media reports put the number of injuries at at least 141. An eight-year-old boy was among the three fatalities.
Sixteen runners from the Island are known to have been taking part in the event, while a number of other Bermudians were also visiting the city. Most of the Bermuda runners were staying at the Fairmont Hotel, just yards from where the bombs went off.
Christopher Estwanik, who ran the race with his wife Ashley, had crossed the line about two hours before the explosions and had already returned to his hotel just 200 metres away from the finish line.
Last night he told
The Royal Gazette that he and his wife had left their room at the Westin Hotel and, on walking outside, were confronted by scenes of mayhem, with people running and screaming, and ambulances speeding through the streets.
“We didn't actually hear the blasts so didn't know what was going on,” Mr Estwanik, who was speaking from a restaurant that was 'on lockdown', said.
“They have shut everything down here. We're in lockdown in a restaurant right now, so we don't really know what's going on, but we're just doing what the authorities are telling us to do.
“I just can't describe my feelings right now because, you come to a great event like this and after the race we were on a high — we had performed really well, and then something like this happens and it just hits you. It makes you realise that nothing else matters.
“I'm just sick to my stomach and it makes you so sad for the human race. This is such a powerful day for Boston — it's one of the oldest marathons in the world, and this is going to be its legacy.
“I just hope that everyone's okay and recovers and they can get to the bottom of what actually happened.”
With some of the Island's runners still out on the course when the attacks took place, members of the tight-knit Bermuda contingent spent several anxious hours trying to find out if their fellow runners were safe. Contacting friends and relatives back home was also a priority, with some posting messages of reassurance on Facebook.
It was not until around three hours after the attacks that Government was able to confirm that none of the Bermuda runners were among the casualties.
Another runner, Claire de ste Croix, finished the race just minutes before the explosions and was in a nearby changing area when she heard “very loud explosions”.
“There was a lot of confusion because no one really knew what was going on — just lots of noise and sirens,” she said.
“At first someone said it might be cannons going off. Then it came to light that it was a bomb.”
Mrs de ste Croix was staying with friends in a suburb of the city, but her party was unable to leave because the car park in which they had left their vehicle was closed off by officials.
“The whole city was under lockdown so we found an Irish pub and waited there, watching events on television,” she said.
“I don't think we realised how serious things were until we actually saw it on TV. And I also started worrying about the other Bermuda runners. I knew that there were some runners behind me and knew their predicted finish times so that was a worry.”
Back in Bermuda, Mrs de ste Croix's husband, Neil, had an anxious wait before he was able to confirm that his wife was not among the injured.
“I haven't heard from her yet, but I did hear from a friend who was running with her who told me that she was fine — but obviously it's been a worrying couple of hours,” Mr de ste Croix had told
The Royal Gazette earlier in the evening.
Rose-Anna Hoey was another Bermuda-based runner who had completed the marathon and returned to her hotel before the terrorist strike.
She said she and her husband were waiting for an elevator outside her room when she heard a “thud”.
She initially thought the noise had come from the elevator, before learning from her husband that the city was under possible attack.
Gathered with several other Bermuda runners in one of the hotel's rooms last night, Mrs Hoey said: “We were in total disbelief.
“Obviously it was a very anxious time. We were trying to get in contact with everyone to make sure that they were okay, hoping to hear back from all the other runners, and once we did it was a sigh of relief.
“It seems that it was spectators that got injured and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with them. This is not a time for celebration. It's very sad.”
Runner Candace Roach was still on the course when she discovered what had happened.
“Basically four of us were still running until mile 25.5 and then they cancelled it,” she said.
“We are all just very happy to be safe and our thoughts go out to the families of the victims. Facebook and texts have been the main method of keeping in touch.
“I'm fine. I'm a little tired from running 25 miles but otherwise fine. Just happy everyone is safe.”
Bermuda College lecturer Pamela Maxwell Clarke was visiting the city with her husband and described her fear at seeing the first explosion.
“We saw the first bomb go off and we were across the street from the second bomb,” she wrote on Facebook.
“We did not know where to run. We just started to run in the opposite direction of the second bomb but we did not know where to run really. There could be another one going off anywhere. We were running for our lives. Everyone was. Chaos.”
Last night Premier Craig Cannonier was able to confirm that Bermuda athletes were not among the casualties of what he described as a “senseless” attack.
“On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, we are relieved to know that the athletes representing Bermuda at the 2013 Boston Marathon are all accounted for and are safe,” Mr Cannonier said.
“Our hearts and condolences go out to the families and friends of those who were killed or injured as a result of this senseless act of violence.”
Community and Cultural Affairs Minister Wayne Scott also issued a statement, saying: “It is a shame to know that the excitement and preparation that the athletes went through to compete in this prestigious event will not be realised. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of those who lost their loved ones.”
And the Opposition Progressive Labour Party last night issued a statement on behalf of leader Marc Bean. “His thoughts are with the city of Boston, the participants in the marathon, the families of those killed, and all of those that were injured,” the statement read.
“Mr Bean also would like to give a special mention to those Bermudian residents who participated in the marathon, especially Chris Estwanik who finished a solid 21st. He is grateful for their safety.”
Stephen DeSilva, who acted as a liaison officer between the Bermuda runners and race organisers, said: “It would be such a shame for something like this to tarnish what is one of the world's best and most prestigious marathon events. But obviously it's too early to say what happened exactly.”
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