Briton injured in Atlanta nightmare

Matthew Brace
Sunday 28 July 1996 23:02 BST

A British holiday-maker was seriously injured in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park bomb blast early on Saturday when he was caught by the full force of the explosion.

Brian Carr, 53, and Chris Hankinson, 36, from Freethorpe, Norfolk, were strolling in front of the bandstand in the park just before the explosion. Mr Carr was hit by a hail of glass and metal shrapnel and underwent nine hours of emergency brain surgery in Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital.

"In a moment our lives have been destroyed," Mr Hankinson said yesterday, recounting events from his partner's bedside. "I couldn't believe it was real. You have to understand that we felt totally safe and relaxed in Atlanta, and we honestly thought that we could just disappear into the crowds. We had been visiting a couple of gay bars and we were just having a great party. Everybody was so friendly that we wished we could stay here for ever."

Mr Hankinson recalled seeing people around him fall as they were caught in the blast.

"I saw the explosion and heard this enormous bang," he said. "It was as if the ground had opened up and swallowed people - there was just a huge gap appearing in front of us, which had been packed with people.

"A woman beside me became hysterical, and as I tried to comfort her I followed her horrified stare and realised she was looking at Brian. His legs were going, and blood was pouring from his head.

"It was unreal. We had been about 50ft away from the bomb, but it just brought Brian down. No one around us was touched - he took the full force.

"He was in bad shape when they got him into the ambulance. Though he was conscious I don't think he really knew then what had happened, and I don't think he knows even now."

Mr Hankinson said his partner was recovering well after the blast and had taken a few steps around his ward. The hospital said that he was not in a life-threatening condition, though he is likely to remain in intensive care for a week.

The two men met 12 years ago while both were running country pubs in Norfolk. Mr Carr, who was married with a son and daughter, left his wife for a new life with Mr Hankinson. The trip to Atlanta was to have been their dream holiday together.

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