Survivors recall horror of Boston Marathon bombings

Boston Marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile (left) leaves the federal courthouse on the first day of the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston, Massachusetts on Mar, 4, 2015. Survivors of the 2013 bombings choked back tears on Wednes
Boston Marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile (left) leaves the federal courthouse on the first day of the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston, Massachusetts on Mar, 4, 2015. Survivors of the 2013 bombings choked back tears on Wednesday as they told how a day of celebration turned into a horrific urban war zone of torn limbs and burnt flesh. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BOSTON (AFP) - Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings choked back tears on Wednesday as they told how a day of celebration turned into a horrific urban war zone of torn limbs and burnt flesh.

Victims recalled smoke, chaos and terrified screams as they lay in excruciating pain fearing death from the deadly blasts near the finish line at the 2013 race.

The force of the explosions flung them in the air, shrapnel shredded arteries and they were dumped on the ground atop burning shards of metal, ball bearings and shattered glass.

Ms Karen McWatters, a mother of two who lost a leg, told how she held hands with Ms Krystle Campbell, one of the three people who were killed, and how she felt life ebbing from her close friend. Despite agonising injuries, Ms McWatters said she pulled herself over burning pieces of shrapnel to get close to her friend.

"We tried to put our faces together," Ms McWatters told the trial of presumed bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalised American of part Chechen descent.

"She said very slowly her legs hurt. We held hands until her hand went limp. She never spoke again after that," Ms McWatters said.

"They pulled Krystle away from me really fast and started to do CPR and at that point I thought she didn't make it."

Just minutes earlier, the firm friends were photographed together, dressed in jeans and with broad smiles, Ms Campbell in a bright blue top as they enjoyed an idyllic day out in fine weather.

Ms Sydney Corcoran, a 17-year-old high school student at the time, told the jury that she remembered being convinced she would die or live an orphan, not knowing if her parents were dead or alive.

"I remember thinking 'This is it, I'm going to die, I'm not going to make it' and I remember feeling like I was going to sleep and it just felt so cold," said the psychology college student.

Her femoral artery was severed in the attacks.

"I thought I was an orphan that my parents had been violently ripped from this world and I was all alone."

Her mother lost both legs and was treated in the same hospital, but her father escaped serious injury.

"They wheeled her in and we held hands and we were crying. We were both just appreciating that we were still alive," Ms Corcoran said.

Ms Rebecca Gregory, a slender blonde with long curly hair, wore a neat black skirt suit that exposed her fitted prosthetic leg.

"I remember being hoisted into the air and thrown back. I remember trying to get up and I couldn't," she said. "I couldn't see my legs, my bones were literally lying next to me on the sidewalk."

The mother of son Noah, who was five years old and also injured, said she looked round desperately for her child and saw blood and body parts.

"At that point I felt that was the day I would die," she said.

When she tried to reach an arm to drag her son toward her, she said her bones were sticking out and blood ran down her arm as she heard Noah crying: "Mommy, mommy, mommy over and over again."

Ms Gregory told the court she spent 56 days in hospital and had 17 surgeries on her leg before it was finally amputated.

Besides her leg, she sustained multiple shrapnel injuries and fractures, her left hand was crushed, she lost two teeth, suffered internal bleeding and her ear drum was damaged.

Mr Colton Kilgore, who was part of the same family group as Ms Gregory, captured an amateur video showing his sister-in-law with a severed artery as blood flowed onto the sidewalk and an injured Noah screaming for his mother.

A close up showed an enormous hole ripped out of the woman's calf.

"I remember seeing the leg and thinking there's no way she's going to keep that foot," Mr Kilgore told the court.

Mr Shane O'Hara, the manager of a shop, Marathon Sports, near the finish line, compared the bomb site to a war movie.

He described tearing clothes from the racks and taking them outside to be used as tourniquets on some of the most seriously injured.

The court saw closed-circuit television footage that showed panicked spectators rushing inside the store, terrified, after the first bomb went off.

He likened it to World War II movie "Saving Private Ryan" or Vietnam War film "Platoon" - "a scene I never thought I'd see in real life", he said.