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'Unthinkable' chaos: Winnipeg runners survive Boston Marathon explosions

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Winnipeg psychiatrist Bob Steinberg was barely 350 metres from the finish line at the Boston Marathon when the first explosion occurred ahead of him, followed a few seconds later by a second blast.

There was complete and instant chaos, he said.

"People screaming, ambulances... it’s just about now starting to sink in," said Steinberg,

"Somebody said manhole covers, somebody said trash bins. If I’d been close enough to see, I wouldn’t be talking to you," said Steinberg.

Just as he passed a sign that said 0.2 miles to go, the first blast hit. Some people thought it was fireworks and wanted to keep running. Then came the second blast, a block closer.

"I smelled nasty acrid smoke," he said. "I was within three blocks of the finish line. It was on the left sideline, it wasn’t on the course, it was on Boyle Street."

He was hustled off the course and into a mall, where he saw his wife, Julie Gold Steinberg, frantically searching for him. She been waiting for him near the finish line.

Police carrying automatic weapons have cordoned off a wide area, he said. Steinberg and Gold Steinberg are barely a block from their hotel, but can’t get near it.

"There’s police everywhere," he said. "It’s incredible."

'Unthinkable': Donnelly

Kevin Donnelly, vice-president of True North Sports & Entertainment, said he just crossed the finish line when the explosions went off, and was was approximately 100 to 150 metres from where the blasts occurred.

"I looked to see if a building was coming down. You think the absolute worst," Donnelly said in an interview with Free Press columnist Gary Lawless.

"In the last half-mile there are probably 300,000 people on the street. I knew that this explosion was off to the side, the sidewalks, the audience area, and I knew it was going to be bad.

"I couldn’t see the immediate aftermath but I didn’t want to get any closer. This didn’t look good."

Donnelly said the group of Winnipeggers he was with quickly gathered, and everyone was safe and sound.

"All the people that I came with, we are all present and accounted for," said Donnelly, who immediately called his wife back home to tell her he was safe. "My core of friends are OK, thank God.

"The Boston Marathon is such a fantastic gathering. About 27,000 runners and millions of spectators. It’s such a spectacular gathering of humanity," Donnelly said.

"This was a magical day. I was injured and was running my slowest time. I was enjoying the audience. I high-fived hundreds and hundreds of kids, too. I finished in a half decent time, and then five minutes later none of it matters.

"To have this be the end of it is unthinkable," he said. "Whoever did this, you've got to find him and punish him hard."

40 Manitobans in race; none reported injured

About 40 Manitobans registered to run in the Boston Marathon, although not all of them may have actually run the race. There is no indication at this time that any Manitobans were hurt in the explosions.

The Free Press is compiling a list of Manitoba runners we have confirmed are safe, either through direct contact or indirectly through family, friends or other runners.

If you have information on the status of a Manitoban in the race you can contact the Free Press newsroom at city.desk@freepress.mb.ca or call 204-697-7292.

Boston Marathon results show six Manitobans finishing their race within 10 minutes of the explosion's occurrence.  Seven other Manitobans had half-marathon times recorded, but no finish times, meaning it's possible they were still on the course.

"I crossed the finish line about half an hour before the explosion," said David Cormie, who was four blocks away in the family-meeting area when the blasts went off.

Cormie spoke to the Free Press shortly after being reunited with Vivian Rachlis, who was a considerable distance behind him.

"I didn’t have any news for a while -- I was getting worried," said Cormie, who’d earlier texted Rachlis’s daughter to say he was all right.

Cormie said that he was part of a Winnipeg running group that included Donnelly, Jake Fehr,  Tim Turner, and Mike McGovern, all of whom were all with him when the explosions happened, he said.

Peter Pazerniuk was deep in the middle of a post-marathon massage when he heard the explosions from a few hundred metres away.

He quickly phoned his wife, children and elderly parents back home in Winnipeg to confirm he was safe.

"He was quite upset. He said they were hustled away from the area pretty quickly. For all of us it was quite a shock," Peter's father, Gordon Pazerniuk, told the Free Press in a telephone interview. "We were very relieved to hear he was okay."

Peter, 41, was competing in his second straight Boston Marathon and crossed the finish line in an impressive 3:15:59 according to the official online results page. His father said the blasts happened about an hour later.

"He was being massaged at the time of the explosions," he said.

Andrew Gabel had been stuck in a classroom writing a university exam, wondering how his father
Randy had done in the marathon. Then a bizarre text message showed up which made the Winnipeg man’s heart skip a beat.

"There was an explosion. I’m OK," read the note from his 51-year-old father.

Andrew was in the dark about the tragic events but quickly began scouring online news sites for information. He told the Free Press he was stunned by what he saw. He is relieved his father is safe, especially since Gabel finished the race in 4:02:33. The explosions happened only a short time later.

Steinberg said that he’s heard Manitoba runners Bill Diehl-Jones and David Ranta are OK.

Michelle Sorin said from Lorette that her husband Marcel Sorin phoned her at 3:30 p.m. to say he was safe, and that Manitoba runners Gerald Boulet of Lorette and Justin Mangin of Bruxelles were with him.

The federal Department of Foreign Affairs has an emergency line at 1-800-387-3124 to offer assistance to Canadians. 

A Google "person finder" for the Boston incident is also operating for people looking for someone or with information on someone.

 

 

Manitoba runners reported safe

About 40 Manitobans registered to run in the Boston Marathon, although not all of them may have actually run the race.  Here is a list of Manitoba runners the Free Press has confirmed are safe, either through direct contact or indirectly through family, friends or other runners.

If you have information on the status of a Manitoban in the race you can contact the Free Press newsroom at city.desk@freepress.mb.ca or call 204-697-7292.

  • Gerald Boulet
  • David Cormie
  • Gordon Dalling
  • Doug DeJong
  • Bill Diehl-Jones
  • Kevin Donnelly
  • Brian Drummond
  • Jake Fehr
  • Fiona Fleming
  • Randy Gabel
  • Julie Gold Steinberg
  • Cathey Gornick
  • Marlis Jabs
  • Ray Jones
  • Mark Lawall
  • Justin Mangin
  • Mike McGovern
  • Peter Pazerniuk
  • John Powers
  • Vivian Rachlis
  • David Ranta
  • Melanie Sifton
  • Marcel Sorin
  • Bob Steinberg
  • Tim Turner
  • David Watt
  • Julie Whelen

 

Photos coming out of Boston, where two explosions were reported at the finish line of the world famous Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon. WARNING: Graphic content.

History

Updated on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM CDT: Adds information from David Cormie.

4:29 PM: Adds information from Kevin Donnelly.

4:41 PM: Adds information from Michelle Sorin

5:17 PM: Adds list of Manitobans reported safe.

6:04 PM: Adds names

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