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Witness who ran toward marathon bomb 'saw bodies flying'

April 16, 2013 at 7:35 AM ET

A Boston couple and an eyewitness who ran toward the scene after two bombs detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday described a chaotic mix of catastrophic injuries and strangers racing to help one another.

Tom Meagher, a finish-line coordinator who ran toward the explosions, detailed a "horrific blast" that almost knocked him to the ground. "I turned and saw a huge wave of smoke and glass coming at me, and I actually saw bodies flying, moving around, uncontrollably."

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Meagher, who has volunteered at the finish line for 17 years, told Matt Lauer he did not see anything suspicious in the area before the bombs detonated.

Nick Yanni and his wife, Lee-Ann, were injured in the blast. "We were close enough to the bomb that went off by the finish line that there was a lot of bad things going on and everybody was just trying to help everybody,'' Nick Yanni told Lauer.

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The Yannis were standing outside the Marathon Sports store about 10 feet from the finish line, cheering on friends who were running the race. Both were injured when the two bombs detonated: Lee-Ann had emergency surgery for an open fibular fracture after shrapnel ripped through her shin, and is waiting for a skin graft, while Nick sustained a pierced ear drum.

"I'm not sure exactly where (the bomb) was detonated," Lee-Ann said from her hospital bed at Tufts University Medical Center. "It sounded awfully close. We were probably about 10 feet from the finish line. It was quite loud and (you) definitely could smell the smoke and everything when it happened."

The Yannis, who moved to Boston from Orlando in September of last year, were using T-shirts to help stop the bleeding in Lee-Ann's shin. She estimated it took about 15 minutes for her to be carried out, put on a golf cart and taken to a makeshift triage center before she was later taken by ambulance to Tufts University Medical Center. The couple was separated at that time, and Nick went into shock after seeing the extent of her injuries.

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"When the police came in, they wanted to get anybody who wasn't hurt out so they could take care of anybody who was hurt,'' Nick said.

The bravery of the police and first responders struck a chord with another eyewitness, Stan Ricks, who finished running the marathon only minutes before the first bomb went off. He was in the medical tent when he heard the explosions and quickly left to make room for those injured in the blasts.

"As we’re all trying to get away...the police are running and charging down the street to help,'' Ricks told Natalie Morales. "And a lot of the volunteers went to help. It was truly amazing to see. These guys were really heroes. I was totally impressed.''

Those at the scene are now trying to come to grips with it a day later. Alycia Lane, an anchor at NBC Los Angeles affiliate KNBC, was waiting at a hotel restaurant near the finish line to meet up with a friend who ran in the race when the bombs detonated.

"Everyone was terrified, myself included, not knowing if that was the only bomb, if there were more to come,'' she told TODAY. "This morning it was really about processing about what had taken place. It was just such a terrifying experience. It’s certainly a difficult day.''

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