Shaken witnesses described scenes of chaos and horrific injuries near the Boston Marathon finish line this afternoon.
Oscar Otero was just a few feet away from the blasts.
“You heard boom-boom, then people screaming,” Otero said.
Then, suddenly the carnage became apparent.
“There was blood all over the place. I saw a leg, people with bones sticking out of their skin,” he said. “It’s hard to describe.”
Al Ghilardi, a photographer for the Boston Athletic Association, was standing on the bridge over the finish line when he saw a red flash.
“Then a big plume of white smoke, and then I ducked because I felt the shrapnel,” Ghilardi said. “I saw people in awe. They were frozen. It took a few seconds for people to recognize what happened.”
Dave Benson, 41, was in the stands across Boylston Street from the explosion.
“I thought it was an end of the event celebration with fireworks,” Benson said. “Then I saw a huge plume of smoke and people falling down.”
Andrea George, 39, was also across the street from the finish line.
“We heard a noise and heard the glass shatter,” George said. “My friend was right there, and I can’t get in touch with them. I just started running. Everyone was running in different directions. It was the scariest thing I ever saw.”
For Nicola Gifford, a waitress from Maui, today’s race was her first Boston Marathon. She had just crossed the finish line when she heard a big bang.
Gifford, 47, said she was scared. “I thought the other buildings were going to go down.”
Mike Smith, a mechanic, was near the medical tent when explosions happened:
“I was in shock. It was like a canon going off,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t realize what was happening until I saw people covered in blood. I saw maimed people.”
Otero, the witness from Natick, voiced what many on the streets were thinking.
“I don’t know why anybody would do something like this,” he said.
Mark Hagopian, operating partner at the Charlesmark Hotel, said he was on the outdoor patio about 35 feet from the first explosion. At first he thought it could have been fireworks or a gas explosion, but it became clear it was more serious after the second explosion. “It was like a cannon. We knew something was wrong.”
Two hotel managers began clearing fences so the medics could reach the victims as Hagopian took footage of the carnage.
“Runners were ripping their shirts off and making tourniquets,” said Hagopian. “There is blood all over the lobby.”
Hagopian said people streamed into the hotel crying and screaming, where about 130 guests were celebrating at a marathon party. “We’re deeply concerned that people are displaced. People are e-mailing us that they need medication and it’s very difficult.”