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Islanders tell of narrow escapes from Boston bombs

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A Bermuda family in Boston for the city’s marathon race on Monday were lucky to escape with their lives after a terrorist bomb attack brought carnage to the event.

Cary Butterfield was one of 16 runners from the Island taking part in the event. She was seconds away from completing the 26.2-mile course when two blasts rocked the run-in to the finish line just ahead of her, killing three spectators and injuring more than 170, turning scenes of joy and celebration to chaos and panic.

And Mrs Butterfield’s husband, Spencer, and two young children had an even narrower escape. They had intended to watch the race from a spot just a few feet from where one of the bombs was detonated — but were unable to do so after the area became too congested.

Speaking to

The Royal Gazette after arriving back in Bermuda last night, Mrs Butterfield said it made her shudder to think that she could have been at the finishing line when the bombs exploded.

And she described her blind panic when, seconds after the blasts, she realised that her husband and children must have been standing at a spot that was now filled with choking black smoke and mangled bodies.

On the previous day, Mr Butterfield had taken part in another race that finished at Copley Square in the Back Bay district of the city. His wife had stood outside the Sugary Heaven candy store yards from the finish line in order to photograph Mr Butterfield running against a backdrop of a spectator grandstand.

The couple were so pleased with the photographs that Mrs Butterfield asked her husband to take up the same vantage point for Monday’s race, so that he could take similar pictures. The spot was just yards from where one of the bombs, hidden inside a holdall, would explode at around 2.45pm on Monday as streams of athletes completed the race.

“Our daughter had insisted on going to that candy store every day,” Mrs Butterfield said.

“So that was were we were standing when Spencer ran in the race on Sunday and that’s where he was planning to go to watch me. It’s scary when you think about it.”

Mrs Butterfield said she knew something “serious” was wrong as soon as she heard the first blast, and immediately stopped running.–“I was in a lot of pain and this was my first marathon but I just knew that I was going to finish,” she said.

“But as soon as I heard the bomb I knew it was something serious. I looked at the faces of police officers and then suddenly began to panic. I was terrified because I had a feeling that my family were at the finishing line, where the bombs had gone off and that they could have been injured.”

Mr Butterfield expressed his relief that he had failed to make it to the location.

“I was with my two children and a stroller and it was just too hectic,” he said.

“I was actually preparing myself to tell Cary that I wasn’t able to get the pictures that she had wanted, because I knew she would be disappointed. But now I’m just so glad that I wasn’t able to. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Although the couple were only yards from each other prior to the explosions, in the ensuing confusion they could not find each other. Mrs Butterfield was eventually able to call her husband from a landline in a house on the street before being reunited with her family.

“As soon as I saw him we just teared up,” Mrs Butterfield said.

“We just hugged each other and it was such a relief to see my kids’ faces and know that they were safe. It was very emotional.

“It never went through my mind that I never made it to the finish line. For the last five kilometres I was praying to God to finish. He was on my side and made sure that me — and my family — were at the right spot at the right time.”

Several other Bermudians were among the crowds witnessing the climax of the race.

Graduate school student Kyle Tucker was with two friends in a bar that was shaken by the impact of the blasts.

“The first thing I did was run outside to try and find out what was going on,” Mr Tucker, 23, said.

“I don’t think we were close enough to be in the range of shrapnel or anything but the smoke was coming towards us and, had I looked to my left, I now know that I would have seen some pretty horrific stuff.

“Because 9/11 is so ingrained in our minds, everyone’s reaction was to just run, to get away from high buildings. It was just hysteria.”

Mr Tucker said that he was impressed by the conduct of security personnel at the scene.

“I guess it’s human nature in situations like that to just run, to get as far away from the danger as possible, even when you don’t know what the danger is,” he said.

“So when everyone was running in one direction, away from the bombs, it was impressive to see the police and other officials running in the opposite direction, towards the danger.”

Another student, Madison Brewer has been living in the city for five years, staying in an apartment just one block from Copley Square.

Last night the student revealed that she had been at a bar just yards from where the bombs had been planted — and fortunately decided to leave for home minutes before the devices went off.

“I heard the first bomb go off and then the second,” Ms Brewer said.

“After that, the streets seemed to be completely silent for a while, then all you could hear was screaming and sirens.”

Ms Brewer said friends she had left at the bar quickly arrived at her apartment in a state of panic.

“All they were able to say was ‘bombs’ and ‘bloody people’,” Ms Brewer said.

The group locked themselves into the apartment and watched television news bulletins in order to find out the cause of the chaos around them.

Safe and accounted for: Some of the Bermuda runners who took part in the ill-fated Boston Marathon are pictured at LF Wade International Airport, before leaving for Boston. From left are Ashley Estwanik, Chris Estwanik, Mynor Aguilar, Candace Roach, Darin Cassidy, Claire de St Croix, Steven Ortiz, Natalie Dyrli, David Hoey, Rose-Anna Hoey, Cary Butterfield and Cruz Butterfield.
Blast site: The Sugary Heaven candy store (right) on Boylston Street, where Cary Butterfield’s family had planned to stand to watch her finish Monday’s Boston Marathon.

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Published April 17, 2013 at 10:00 am (Updated April 17, 2013 at 10:57 am)

Islanders tell of narrow escapes from Boston bombs

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