Commuter heard a bang, and took photo of first blast

Belgian soldiers patrol inside Brussels central railway station after a suicide bomber was shot dead by troops in Brussels, Belgium, on June 21, 2017.
Belgian soldiers patrol inside Brussels central railway station after a suicide bomber was shot dead by troops in Brussels, Belgium, on June 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • Mr Remy Bonnaffe was listening to music on his headphones and checking his phone as he waited for his train home to Ghent after a day at the office in Brussels.

It was a normal day, he said. Then, something sinister happened.

"All of a sudden, I heard a bang, looked over and saw this thing burning," he recalled.

"And at first I thought, maybe it is just a regular explosion, an electronic device or whatever," he added. "But when I heard the second explosion, I started to get into instinct mode."

The 23-year-old lawyer had the presence of mind to snap a photograph of the flames from the first blast and later posted it on Twitter.

That image travelled around the world, showing the scene in what Belgian police are calling yet another "terrorist" attack in Europe.

ON ALERT

At first I thought, maybe it is just a regular explosion, an electronic device or whatever... But when I heard the second explosion, I started to get into instinct mode.

MR REMY BONNAFFE

The suspected bomber was shot dead by soldiers, and no one else was hurt.

"I think we had some luck tonight," Mr Bonnaffe told Reuters by telephone after he finally made it home. "I am happy that no one was injured and that this was basically a failed attempt."

He and dozens of others were milling around in the underground concourse of the elegant 1930s Central Station at around 8.30pm on Tuesday (2.30am yesterday, Singapore time), checking the information screens to see which platform their train would be at.

Startled by the first blast, which he photographed, Mr Bonnaffe then heard but could not see a second, similar explosion.

Then came what were probably shots fired at the suspect by one of the army patrols that have been an accepted fixture of Brussels' public spaces since Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in and around Paris in November 2015.

"With all the events, I just wanted to get away as quickly as possible from the mass and get to a place inside," he said.

He took refuge in a hotel across the street from the station, alerting the receptionist that there was an emergency going on. There was a "scary moment" when people in the lobby were told to take cover. But police quickly appeared to take control of the area.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Commuter heard a bang, and took photo of first blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe