Nurse unwittingly tried to save suicide bomber

French nurse David was having dinner at the Paris cafe targeted by bomber Brahim Abdeslam during the Nov 13 attacks.
French nurse David was having dinner at the Paris cafe targeted by bomber Brahim Abdeslam during the Nov 13 attacks.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • In the chaos of the blast at the Comptoir Voltaire cafe, one of several targets hit in the Nov 13 Paris attacks, nurse David instinctively sought to help the wounded.

Among them was a man lying amid overturned chairs and tables. David, who asked to be called just by his first name, lay him down. The man did not look to have massive injuries, but appeared unconscious, so David began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

When he tore open the man's T-shirt, David quickly realised that what he first thought was a gas explosion at the cafe, which is close to the Bataclan music hall where gunmen killed 89 people, was something far worse. "There were wires; one white, one black, one red and one orange. Four different colours," he told Reuters. "I knew then he was a suicide bomber."

The man was Brahim Abdeslam, one of those involved in a series of deadly attacks that killed 130 people at bars, restaurants, a football stadium and a music hall. Only Abdeslam died at the cafe.

As soon as he realised the person he was trying to save had just tried to kill him, David said, the fire services arrived. Among them was a fireman he knew. He told him what he had just seen. "He looked at me and started shouting for everyone to evacuate," he said.

David, 46, who works at a Paris hospital, had been having dinner with a friend that Friday night.

When the waitress brought their dishes, the explosion went off. "There was a huge flame; there was dust," he said. "I immediately thought it was the heaters. I screamed, 'Cut off the gas'. There was panic, people started running out... I left the dining area and went on to the terrace."

He first helped a woman, then a young man, conscious but bleeding. A helper took over and David went to Abdeslam. "He had a large opening on his side, about 30cm."

David said police told him that Abdeslam's bomb had not fully exploded. "(Later), I was thinking about how I lay him on the floor, with me doing CPR. By just doing that, I also could have been gone," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'Nurse unwittingly tried to save suicide bomber'. Print Edition | Subscribe