A paramedic has described being confronted by a sea of bodies, with patients and police officers “screaming for help” amid gunfire - moments after terrorists began their murderous campaign on London Bridge.
Gary Edwards, 29, said he had “a gut feeling” about the extent of the tragedy as he arrived on the south side of the bridge at around 10.10pm on Saturday.
He said he feared there was something “more sinister” than initial reports, which suggested a possible drink-driver running down pedestrians on the bridge, as he put on body armour and ran towards danger.
The paramedic said he feared for his own safety as he prepared to come face to face with an armed attack.
And he praised the speed and scale of the response from his emergency service colleagues which he said “definitely” saved lives.
Recalling the moments after terrorists Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba began their campaign of death and destruction to the capital, Mr Edwards said: “Someone ran towards me to ask for help.
“As this happened, 10 gunshots went off behind me. It was very close - maybe 40 yards.
“I didn’t know if it was the police firing the guns or the enemies, or a bit of both - an exchange of fire. At this point I felt unsafe.
“As soon as I heard the gunshots I put my ballistic armour on. I didn’t have time for my helmet.
“People were running towards me. I was worried someone was going to run towards me with a knife. I felt quite exposed. I felt like a target.”
Mr Edwards, who joined the London Ambulance Service (LAS) in 2008, had been on solo duty in Southwark that evening in a Volvo fast-response car. He was attending a call several streets away with Met officers when the first details came through on the police radio.
He said: “We heard a van had hit multiple people on London Bridge.
“Instantly I had a gut feeling something was going on, something more sinister. The police officers ran off and I followed them.
“When I arrived there was a sea of blue lights in front of me from the police cars. There were multiple patients laying on the floor, and lots of people running towards me as I parked up opposite the Post Office.
“I couldn’t get any further up because of the amount of people and police cars. There were 10 to 15 people laying all over the pavement and in the middle of the road.
“I’m being approached by lots of members of the public and police officers screaming for help. At that part of the bridge I was the first paramedic on the scene.”
Mr Edwards, one of around 80 called to the scene, said several casualties barricaded themselves in bars and restaurants amid fear the attack was continuing.
He told the Evening Standard: “It wasn’t until we cleared these areas with the armed police that we found them.
“We were still unsure how many terrorists there were.
“We didn’t know who was still on the loose. It was still an unsafe area.
“The majority of people that were hiding were not injured. They were hiding in pubs, just for cover.
“We would find the odd person here or there with injuries - not all life-threatening injuries, more minor, walking wounded.”
Mr Edwards, from Greenwich, was on scene until 4.30am, and said he was running on adrenaline. He reported for duty again 14 hours later.
He said: “I felt the training I had received, due to the specialist area I work in, definitely helped. It allowed me to go into automatic mode and decide what the right tactic was to use in that situation.
“I think we (LAS) did very well and the patients were seen very quickly. I think lives were definitely saved.
“I can say that hand on heart. From the actions on the bridge - training people early and extracting people early - it made a huge difference.
“Working in central London, you have always got it in the back of your mind that it could happen at any point.
“I volunteered for the role. I was prepared for it. I was preparing to deal with something like that one day.
“When it does happen it still takes you by surprise.”