As the firing squad shot the first man, blood spurted onto Mr Ali Hussein Kadhim's face.
The 23-year-old remembered seeing a video camera in the hands of another militant.
"I saw my daughter in my mind, saying, 'Father, father,'" he told The New York Times.
He felt a bullet pass by his head and fell forwards into the freshly-dug trench.
"I just pretended to be shot," he said.
Mr Ali, an Iraqi soldier and a Shiite, survived a mass execution carried out by militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The militants killed up to 770 men in mass executions at five locations in Tikrit, after seizing the city in northern Iraq in June, the Human Rights Watch has claimed.
Mr Ali, who had joined the army 10 days earlier, identified one of three newly-discovered sites.
He was captured in June with thousands of other men as they tried to flee along the main road from a military base, UK daily The Independent reported.
He said that he and other prisoners were held in a shipping container in a palace compound in the city, then taken out in a group of 10 and lined up to be shot with pistols, one after another.
He told The New York Times that one of the killers walked among the bodies and saw that one man was still breathing.
'JUST LET HIM SUFFER'
"Just let him suffer," another militant said. "He's an infidel Shia..."
Mr Ali said he waited for four hours until it was dark. About 200m away was the edge of the Tigris River.
He made it to the river bank, where the reeds gave him some cover. There, he said, he met another man named Mr Abbas, a driver, who had been shot by militants and pushed into the river.
Mr Ali said he stayed there for three days with Mr Abbas, who was so badly wounded he could barely move.
Mr Ali said he ate insects and plants to survive, but Mr Abbas was in so much pain that he could not eat anything.
"It was three days of hell," The New York Times quoted Mr Ali as saying.
Elements of his story were corroborated by a Sunni tribal sheikh who protected him on his journey, and by Mr Abbas' father, who contacted Mr Ali after he saw an interview he gave in the news media.
Mr Ali is now out of the ISIS-held region and is safe. In June, ISIS militants claimed to have executed 1,700 prisoners it said were Shia members of the army.
Photos later emerged on social media showing captives being loaded onto trucks and lying, with their hands bound, in three shallow trenches.
In further graphic photos, gunmen could be seen firing at captives.
This article was first published on September 05, 2014.
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