London man Gerard Vowls has spoken out about the moments that led to 21-year-old Brisbane woman Sara Zelenak’s death during the devastating London Bridge terror attacks.
Amidst the chaos and panic, as people tried desperately to flee, Vowls ran the other way to help the young woman he saw being attacked by the terrorists.
The 47-year-old construction worker has spoken to The Australian of the ordeal, saying, “I wanted to distract them, to stop them, I wanted to turn attention to me, rather than the blonde girl. She was crying out, ‘help me! Help me! And I tried so hard, screaming to get them to look at me.”
He hopes his actions will bring some small degree of comfort to Sara’s family, knowing that someone tried to save her.
“What I saw was the worst thing in the world,” he says. “To Sara’s family, I just want to say I am so very sorry for their loss. I really tried to help her and get them to chase me. I am ripped apart knowing she died, it’s destroying me.”
Vowls grabbed a nearby bike to use as a weapon against the attackers, successfully catching the attention of one of them, who chased him for a short distance before returning to the scene. “I wanted all of them to chase me so they would leave her alone,” Vowls recalls.
Sara was separated from her friend when the white van crashed into pedestrians on London Bridge and chaos broke out.
Her friends and family hadn't heard from her since the attack.
"I ran thinking she would be running with me but I looked back and she wasn't there," friend Pri Gonçalves recalls.
The pair had been out for dinner when they heard the crash, Pri says they walked a few steps to see what had happened when they heard people screaming.
"People started running and shouting 'run'. At that moment I got scared and desperate so I ran," Pri told Fairfax Media.
Sara's mother confirmed her death on Sara's Facebook profile. "They found her body ... DNA tests confirmed.
"Thank you for all the overwhelming love and support from everyone."
Tributes are flowing in for the young woman lost too soon in the horrific attacks.
"Sara Zelenak you will be unbelievably missed! Sending my love to your family, friends and, of course, our Bay Girl family," a friend wrote, ABC News reports. "Such a beautiful, fun soul. RIP beautiful girl, you will be dearly missed!" another added.
A GoFundMe page created to raise money to assist Sara’s family has raised more than $15,000 to date. You can donate here: gofundme.com/wpgbg-london-terror-affects-local-family