Boston bombing: Father tells trial how family was ripped apart

Boston bombing: Father tells trial how family was ripped apart
Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts near the finish line of the race.

BOSTON - A father described in excruciating detail Thursday how his little boy was killed, his young daughter lost a leg and his wife was blinded in one eye in the Boston Marathon bombings which ripped his life apart.

Bill Richard spoke carefully and calmly at the trial of one of the brothers blamed for the bloodshed, at times pausing to keep his emotions in check, as he gave devastating testimony about how the April 15, 2013 bombings ruptured his family forever.

Martin, eight, was killed. Jane, then six, had her left leg amputated and wife Denise lost sight in one eye. Miraculously, Richard and elder son Henry escaped with comparatively minor injuries.

"I saw a little boy who had his body severely damaged by an explosion and I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance," Richard recalled.

"The colour of his skin and so on. I knew in my head that I needed to act quickly or we might not only lose Martin but we might lose Jane too."

He told his badly wounded wife that he had to leave her to go to a hospital with the children.

"She agreed and she was crying," he told the court. "It was at that time when I basically saw my son alive, barely, for the last time."

'Vile smell'

Members of the jury put their hands to their mouths and another amputee survivor, who testified on Wednesday, sobbed in the gallery.

The defendant, presumed bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, fixed his gaze straight ahead, refusing to look at Richard, who was just feet away on the witness stand.

Richard said the young family only moments before had been having a "beautiful day," stopping for ice cream and enjoying the marathon, where he and wife Denise took the children to cheer on their track coaches.

He explained they wound up by chance at the spot where the second bomb went off, having searched for a place where the crowd thinned out so the children could get a good view of the finish line.

"It was very random. We had no reason to stop where we did other than there was just an opening, so we took it."

He described the first bomb as "a thunderous explosion" and just as he was preparing to leave by hoisting himself over the metal barrier and take the children with him, a second, deafening explosion struck.

He was blown into the road, but despite shrapnel injuries and severe burns on his legs, he picked himself up and was able to walk.

"It smelled like sulfur, burnt hair. It smelled vile."

He found Jane with her leg blown off, picked her up and shielded her eyes and those of elder son Henry as they hobbled together across the street, which by now was a scene of pandemonium.

'I can hear my family'

Richard found someone to help Jane and went to find his wife, who was yelling his name, and Martin. Knowing there was nothing he could do for his dying son, he rode the ambulance with his other children.

At the hospital, he said the doctors had a look of horror etched on their faces. "It was like a scene from the movies," he said. "There were just dozens of doctors and nurses lined up in triage, just waiting."

Henry had cuts and scrapes, and temporary loss of hearing, but was physically fine "aside from what he witnessed that day."

Daughter Jane was devastatingly injured, he said.

"They amputated her left leg below the knee and I've lost count, they must have removed over 20 shrapnel pieces from all areas of her body, including behind her ear, her back, her torso," he said.

His wife was in a separate hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery on her eye.

He later remembered going home to collect the family's clothes and to take a shower.

It was then that the stench from the bomb site hit him, making him nauseous.

"It was just my time to kind of get that awful smell off my body but really just to put into perspective what had just happened to our family."

Richard said he still suffers constant high-pitched ringing in his ears and loss of hearing.

"But I can still hear you, I can still hear music and I can still hear the beautiful voices of my family," he said.

Tsarnaev, 21, faces the death penalty if convicted of the bombings which killed three people and wounded 264.

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