A former Sheffield United footballer caught up in the Paris terrorist massacre has described fleeing in panic on the “scariest night of my life”.
Jamie Hoyland, 49, was at the Stade de France watching the France versus Germany international friendly when up to two explosions could be heard at around 8.30pm UK time last night.
Hoyland, who played for Burnley, Bury and Sheffield United, was scouting for the Football Association when the first explosion rocked the stadium.
It was one of a number of simultaneous bombings and shootings that last night had left at least 140 people dead - including three at the Stade de France.
Speaking just minutes after returning to his hotel just after midnight, Hoyland said: “We were watching the game and then his almighty bang went off. It shook all around us. There were 70,000 people in the stadium and I think everyone thought someone had let off a massive firework.
“Then about 10 minutes later there appeared to be another one. We just carried on watching the game and doing our notes. Then 10 minutes into the second half a French guy in front of us said a bomb had gone off outside the stadium. Myself and Alan Cork who was with me just looked at each other in shock and fear. I looked at my phone and I had messages asking if we were alright then my wife rang and she told me about what was happening all over Paris.
“At the end of the game, we were in a hospitality room but all the fans who left then suddenly began running back into the ground in panic, rumours were circulating there were men with guns outside the ground.
“They were running down the aisles saying there were terrorists with machine guns.
“We didn’t know what to do, to try to leave or stay put inside the stadium.
“After about an hour we decided to make a move and our driver took us back to the hotel, which was about 25 minutes away near Charles de Gaulle airport. There was blue lights everywhere, I have never seen anything like it.
“When we got back to the hotel all the staff were watching it on TV in amazement at what they were seeing unfold.”
Two explosions were heard at the Stade de France where President Francois Hollande was watching the match.
Around one hour later there were reports of a shooting at the Petit Cambodge restaurant, about five miles away from the Stade de France.
By 10pm, French Police had confirmed that at least 18 people had been killed as reports came in of shootings at the Bataclan theatre, which was hosting a performance by Eagles of Death Metal, an American rock band.
Security forces launched an assault on the Bataclan concert hall and killed at least two of the attackers but at least 118 were later to be confirmed dead at the theatre, with the figure expected to rise.
Witnesses of the attack at the Bataclan described the scene as “carnage” with “blood everywhere”.
In total, at least six separate attacks were reported across Paris.
Hoyland, who has been a key supporter of the Trust set up in honour of former Blackpool defender Gary Parkinson and is a regular at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road as a BBC Radio Lancashire commentator, said: “You see these things on TV and never expect to be involved in it all. It is the scariest night of my life. I’m still in shock, it’s just a totally alien feeling to be here and be involved in it all.
“We were meant to be flying back on Saturday but they have closed all the airports and the borders so I don’t know what will happen. I’m just trying to follow it all on the news and on Twitter and Facebook.
“We live in a mad, mad world.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “shocked” by the attacks and the UK “will do whatever we can to help.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added his condemnation of the “heinous and immoral” attacks.
“My thoughts are with the people of Paris tonight,” the Labour leader said.
“We stand in solidarity with the French. Such acts are heinous and immoral.”
The Foreign Office said it was in “close touch” with the French authorities and it was “urgently investigating” whether there were any British victims.
The attacks come after the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, which took place in January and saw 12 people killed after gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical magazine.
US president Barack Obama told a press conference that the violence in Paris “was an attack on all of humanity”.
He said: “Those who think they can terrorise the people of France and the values they stand for are wrong.”
The Foreign Office advised Britons to “exercise caution in public places” following the attacks and people with concerns about British friends or relatives in Paris can call 0207 0081500 for assistance.