The police medics forced to make life-and-death choices on the Bataclan floor

·2-min read

The work of the special police units sent to face armed killers is so dangerous that they have their own medical specialists with them during every operation. At Thursday's session of the Paris attacks trial, two of the doctors who entered the Bataclan with the elite officers sent to stop the massacre explained the difficult choices they had to make.

It can't have been easy for the families to listen to this evidence.

Denis Safran, chief medical officer of the Rapid Intervention Brigade (BRI), told the court that, faced with 200 bodies, his job was to select those, still alive, who had a chance of surviving, and get them quickly to an operating theatre.

"We had minutes in which to save lives," he said.

"And there were so many of them. I said to myself, how are we going to help all these people?"

His colleague, Dr Matthieu Langlois of the Research, Assistance, Intervention and Dissuasion unit (RAID), spoke of examining a young woman with head injuries.

"I decided to evacuate other injured people first because she seemed so badly hit. I wanted to give a real chance of survival to others.

"I found out that she was dead the following morning."

The two doctors agreed that they did very little medical work to help the injured inside the Bataclan, apart from preventing further blood loss in extreme cases.

'Prioritising victims'

Their basic task was to "prioritise" the victims, marking each forehead with a "1", "2" or "3" so that the officers of the Paris Anti-Criminal Brigade would know which individuals were in most urgent need of evacuation.

Ambulance crews were not allowed inside the building since the attack was still in progress upstairs.

Since there were no stretchers available, the police used their own metal crowd-control barriers to transport the injured.

And then Denis Safran had to go up to the second-floor balcony, to look after his own men, engaged in the final assault. He had heard gunshots, explosions. He expected the worst.

In fact, miraculously, no hostage had been hurt. One BRI police officer had suffered a hand injury. All three terrorist were dead.

The five weeks allocated to the hearing of testimony from victims and their families have now come to an end, after presentations from nearly 300 witnesses.

There is a waiting list with more than 70 names of those who wish to testify. They will be heard early next year.

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