MOURNING: Tributes after the Bastille Day attack in Nice.
MOURNING: Tributes after the Bastille Day attack in Nice. OLIVIER ANRIGO

Terror of Nice: "We could hear gunfire behind us"

AS TRIBUTES flow for those killed in the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, many who witnessed horrors of that fateful evening have reflected on the attack.

One such witness was Coffs Harbour local Katrina Conley, who was holidaying in Nice when the attack occurred.

"The whole experience is just surreal, the panic you feel in that situation when you don't have all the facts, and can't get them or trust the sources giving them, is just insane," Ms Conley said.

The 30-year-old executive account manager recounted celebrating Bastille Day in the area minutes before the attack.

"We were actually standing at the exact area where it ended up happening," Ms Conley said.

"Luckily we went to a pub around the corner where a live band was playing and hadn't been there more than 15-20 minutes when it happened.

"I'd just gone out the front of the pub to chat with a couple of friends when all of a sudden this large crowd of people started running past the pub from where we had been before.

"We didn't know what had happened at that stage, we just saw people running in fear and yelling at us to do the same.

"We ran back inside the pub and could hear gunfire behind us - which sounded like a machine gun."

Fortunately, the tour group Ms Conley is travelling with were all at that pub, where they bunkered down for a period before being rushed out a back door to evacuate the area.

Enroute to safety, Ms Conley said the group was split during the confusion with half taking refuge in a nearby restaurant and the other half rushed into another pub.

Ms Conley was with those hiding at the restaurant for about two hours.

"The restaurant turned all the lights off and closed the roller doors and told everyone to hide quietly behind tables in the back," she said.

"Our plan was pretty much get somewhere safe and wait it out until we could get back to where we were staying."

Those with internet access informed the rest of the group about the unfolding attacks, Ms Conley said.

"There were reports of an accomplice, of a shooter and other things but we just waited until we heard that officially the area was cleared and on lockdown," she said.

"When we realised what had happened we learned that we weren't in any immediate danger and the concern was then to let our families know we were okay.

"There were a lot of people in shock, just breaking down into tears."

The harrowing reality of the attacks set in for Ms Conley and the group upon returning safely to their hotel.

"When we got back to the hotel we had the news on and just kept seeing the death toll rise. It was really confronting for everyone," she said.

"I've never experienced fear like it, and I hope never to again."