Five Men Prevent Disaster on Train

Five Men Prevent Disaster on Train


(CNN)The three childhood friends left the United States for Europe as vacationers, but will return home as heroes.

Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos were aboard a high-speed train en route to Paris from Amsterdam on Friday when a gunman opened fire.

Along with two others — A French national and a Briton — they charged at him, tackled him and subdued him, officials said.

2 members of U.S. military stop Islamist attacker on train in Belgium

Here are the five heroes who possibly averted a massacre:


The 22-year-old Skarlatos was on a monthlong vacation after his return from deployment in Afghanistan.

But instead of taking in scenic European countrysides, he was taking on an attacker aboard a zipping train.

Skarlatos heard gunfire and breaking glass, and sensed something was wrong. When the suspect appeared with a gun on their car, Skarlatos mobilized others, witnesses said.

“My friend Alek Skarlatos yells, ‘Get him!’” said Anthony Sadler, who was among the three. They ambushed the gunman and beat him even as he slashed one of them in the neck with a sharp object.

Skarlatos, a National Guardsman based in Oregon, seized the suspect’s rifle and hit him in the head with the muzzle.

“I’m so proud of (my son). I mean I’m in awe,” his father, Emanuel Skarlatos, told CNN affiliate KVAL in Roseburg. “He inspires me.”


Sadler, a college senior, was on his first trip to Europe when terror struck.

When his friends jumped the gunman and took him down, he and another passenger helped restrain him and ensure he stayed down.

“The three of us beat up the guy,” Sadler said. “I begin to tie him up with help from Chris (Norman), another passenger.”

It’ll be hard to top his first trip to Europe and his final year in college.

“I’m just a college student, it’s my last year in college. I came to see my friends on my first trip in Europe and we stopped a terrorist, it’s kind of crazy,” said Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University.


Briton Chris Norman rushed to help the Americans overpower the suspected gunman, witnesses said.

“All of us were in the same carriage, these two guys plus Spencer — the guy who got injured — were sitting on the same seats, the same row at the back of the train,” Norman said.

Norman, who said he was sitting at the front of the car, saw a train employee dash past.

“I looked up, I saw a guy carrying an AK-47, or at least I assumed it was some kind of machine gun anyway,” he said. “I ducked down in my seat.”

When Skarlatos and his friends tackled the gunman, Norman said he helped subdue him.

Americans, French national tackle, overpower suspected Islamist gunman on train

“I came in at the end of it all and I guess I just helped to get the guy under control,” he said. “We ended up by tying him up.”

Norman said he was relieved no one died.

“It could have been a real carnage and there’s no question about that,” he said.


When the group decided to take down the gunman, Stone, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, made the first contact with the suspect.

“My friend Spencer Stone immediately gets up to charge the guy,” Sadler said. “In the process, Spencer gets slashed multiple times by the box cutter.”

Stone had injuries in the head and neck, and almost had his thumb cut off, according to his friends.

Despite his injuries, he helped a man who had his throat cut and applied pressure to the neck to prevent him from bleeding out, according to his friends.

“If anybody would have gotten shot, it would have been Spencer for sure and we’re very lucky that nobody got killed, especially Spencer,” Skarlatos said.

He was among three people injured during the attack. Authorities said casualties were hospitalized in Arras and Lille.

The Pentagon said one U.S. military member was injured during the confrontation, but it did not identify him. It said his injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

Spencer’s friends said they’ve talked to him.

“He’s in good spirits, he’s in disbelief it happened himself,” Sadler said.


In addition to the four men, a French national is also credited with helping avert a massacre. Authorities did not identify him.

A “French (male) passenger tried courageously to overpower him before the suspect fired several shots,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

“Then two American passengers intervened and managed to overpower the shooter, immobilized him on the ground and put aside his weaponry.”

Applause from world leaders

Cazeneuve joined U.S. President Barack Obama in applauding the passengers for their rapid action.

“The President expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker,” the White House said in a statement.

“While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy. We will remain in close contact with French authorities as the investigation proceeds.”

The men who helped overpower attacker will meet French President Francois Hollande, his office said via Twitter on Saturday. Hollande spoke with the passengers by phone and thanked them “for their exceptional courage and their efficiency” in preventing a tragedy, and plans to meet them at an unannounced date.

The suspect is in custody and undergoing interrogations as authorities try to determine his identity.


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