Ex-Calif. firefighter among London stabbing spree victims

The retired firefighter will continue his vacation before returning home

By Mark Gomez
East Bay Times

LONDON — A retired San Jose firefighter was one of the five people injured Wednesday by a knife-wielding man who killed another American tourist.

Reached by phone in England on Friday, Marty Hoenisch said he came face-to-face with the attacker just moments after the first victim was stabbed. He tried to confront the man, but he ducked past Hoenisch.

Police clear barricade tape from the scene of a knife attack near Russell Square in London, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Police clear barricade tape from the scene of a knife attack near Russell Square in London, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

At first, Hoenisch thought the man might have punched him in the side, but when he saw blood streaming down his clothes, he realized he was stabbed.

The 59-year-old Hoenisch said he suffered a puncture wound and that physically he's "doing fine." In fact, he and his wife, Laurie Kelly, decided to continue their vacation. But the Las Vegas couple remain "terribly saddened" that 64-year-old Darlene Horton, a retired teacher from Tallahassee, was killed in the attack.

"It makes me sick she got killed," Hoenisch said. "It's just so sad."

London authorities believe the stabbing victims were chosen at random in attack "triggered by mental-health issues" and not an act of terrorism. Police have identified the suspect as Zakaria Bulhan, a Norwegian citizen of Somali descent.

Hoenisch and Kelly arrived in London on Wednesday afternoon and were walking back to their hotel after dinner at a local pub when he saw the man "doing long, skipping strides." Hoenisch said he saw the man approach a woman from behind, and then she went to her knees screaming.

"I didn't know what he'd done," Hoenisch said.

Then the man turned his attention to Hoenisch and Kelly. Hoenisch's first thought was to somehow "stop this guy."

"He came right at me and my wife," Hoenisch said. "I went to raise my arms to defend myself and maybe hang onto him. He ducked under my arms and kept going. It felt like he punched me."

Hoenisch said the man kept moving and then fatally stabbed Horton.

Hoenisch, who retired from the San Jose Fire Department in 2009, said he did not immediately know he had been stabbed. He felt something running down his side and realized he was bleeding.

"Everybody was freaking out, screaming," Hoenisch said. "It was a chaotic scene."

Hoenisch began telling people to dial 911, and he was told in London the emergency line is 999. He called emergency dispatchers but was not able to provide the exact location.

Still bleeding, he walked back to his hotel and asked the concierge to provide an address. The concierge was in disbelief as Hoenisch explained what had just happened. The concierge eventually took the phone.

"You could hear sirens at that point," Hoenisch said.

Hoenisch was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated and released. He and his wife also spent several hours in a London police station giving their statements.

Hoenisch and Kelly first thought about ending their vacation but have changed their minds. They will also be visiting Scotland and Ireland before returning home.

"It's a lovely city and very safe," Hoenisch said of London. "It was just one of those things."

Copyright 2016 the Contra Costa Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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