Morecambe victim of Westminster terror attack speaks out about his shocking ordeal
Owen Lambert was laughing and joking with his friends as they set out to explore the sights of London on a university trip.
But within minutes the Morecambe teenager’s carefree day out in the capital turned into a nightmare.
Owen and four friends – all politics students on a visit to the Houses of Parliament - were walking along Westminster Bridge when terrorist Khalid Masood drove a Hyundai 4x4 straight at them.
The 18-year-old was hit by the speeding car and knocked to the ground.
“It all happened in a split-second,” said Owen.
“We’d been at Parliament and had an hour’s free time so we decided to go for a wander. We were walking on the pavement along Westminster Bridge. I’m small and as I was behind my friends I didn’t see the car until the last second. The next thing, it was like a flash. I remember being hit.”
Owen fell onto his friend Travis Frain, 19, who had been walking in front of him and was also struck by the vehicle as it hurtled along the pavement towards Parliament, ploughing through groups of pedestrians.
“I saw blood on Travis’ neck and I said to him ‘You’re bleeding’,” said Owen.
“But then he gestured to my head. I put my hand to my head and it was just red with blood. I realised it was my blood on Travis.
“It all happened so fast. I assume I was hit by the wing mirror.”
Passers-by and paramedics raced to their aid as Masood continued on his deadly path, crashing the hired car into the gates of Parliament.
As Owen sat dazed on the bridge, clutching his wounded forehead, Masood burst into the grounds of Westminster.
The terrorist stabbed unarmed police officer Keith Palmer before being shot dead by armed officers.
PC Palmer and three pedestrians who were on Westminster Bridge died of their injuries.
While sitting on the bridge bleeding from his head, Owen saw many other people lying injured on the pavement and in the road all around him.
“I saw a police officer with an assault rifle – he shouted ‘Shots fired!’ and then ran towards Westminster,” he said.
“Combined with the fact that the car didn’t stop, it was on the pavement and I saw a policeman with a gun, I knew then it was much bigger than just an accident. It was chaos.”
The first person on the scene to help Owen was a young woman called Alice.
“She came over to make sure we were all right, she put her hand on my shoulder and said everything is going to be fine,” said Owen.
“There were people crowding around us. A guy called Dean asked if I was all right too.
“Travis was sitting across from me clutching his arm, lying with his legs out. I asked my friend Harmen Van Arragon to get some tissues out of my bag to stem the blood but he was shaking and said he couldn’t move his hand. “
Within a few minutes of Wednesday afternoon’s terrifying incident, Owen spoke to his frantic mum Sharon by phone, assuring her he was all right. A police officer then bandaged his head wound as paramedics tended to Travis and Harmen. At that point Owen had no idea where his other two friends from the party of five had gone.
“I heard somebody saying that people had gone over the bridge into the water,” he said.
“So at that point I thought my two other friends were dead.”
After around 15 minutes, two police constables escorted Owen and Harmen to a nearby hotel.
A photographer from a national newspaper snapped Owen as he was led him away from the bridge. This picture would later be spread around the world’s media to show the impact of terror.
Owen remained in a small function room at the Marriott Hotel for a couple of hours while he was checked over, keeping in regular phone contact with his worried parents Sharon and Greg who had been watching the horror unfold on television news.
A junior paramedic called Emma stayed with him for most of his time in the hotel.
“She removed my police bandage, cleaned the wound as best as she could and applied a great big gauze plaster on my forehead,” he said.
“She made sure that my reflexes were OK, did a few tests to check the strength of my legs and my arms. She was trying to help everybody else and was lovely. But she was visibly shaken herself. All the hotel guests looked shocked too.”
Owen was then transferred to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital by ambulance.
“I was with a few other people; two police officers, Harmen, a man called Francisco and a lady from South Korea and two men who were with her helping to translate,” he said.
On arriving at hospital, he was taken to casualty.
“They removed my plaster, they cleaned me up a bit more and they took my blood pressure,” he said.
“At first I’d been told I might need stitches but in the end they just glued my head back together.”
As well as the 2.5cm long vertical cut in the centre of his forehead, Owen also suffered bruising and a cut to his left thigh from where he fell, and a small gash on his right cheek.
“They did an X-ray on my leg, I then got a CT scan on my head and finally they did an ultra-sound on my leg,” he said.
“Thankfully all the tests proved that I had no internal injuries.
“The staff were incredibly upbeat, helpful and lovely caring people.
“I was just trying to keep my spirits up. I wasn’t in any pain at the time. The police were guarding my room which helped me feel safe.”
After being interviewed by police, Owen was discharged from hospital before midnight.
Owen and Harmen, who had suffered a leg injury and whose arm was in a cast, were taken in an ambulance back to their digs, a hostel at Kings Cross. There they were reunited with other members of their Edge Hill University politics group and for the first time, discovered that the two friends they had been separated from on Westminster Bridge were safe.
“I was utterly utterly relieved,” said Owen.
“I went back upstairs to my room and sent a Facebook post to say I was OK.”
Owen, 12 other students from the Ormskirk university, and tutor Paula Keaveney, arrived in London on Tuesday for a two-day educational visit to Parliament.
On Wednesday morning they were taken on a tour of the Houses of Parliament and met with Rosie Cooper, MP for West Lancashire. They were due to meet with a trade union representative and attend a House of Lords sitting during the remainder of their trip.
Owen and his four friends who were on Westminster Bridge had been given an hour of free time and decided to explore London before returning to Parliament. The tutor and the other students were still inside Westminster when the building went into lockdown after Masood’s attack and remained there for several hours afterwards.
On Thursday morning, Owen returned to Edge Hill by train and bus. There, he was reunited with his parents, younger brother Dale and grandpa Frank.
“I was over the moon to see my family,” he said.
“The staff at Edge Hill were very understanding, compassionate and helpful. They offered us counselling and support, and free food! We spoke to the vice-chancellor John Cater and I gave a statement to the counter-terrorism officer from Lancashire police.”
Owen then returned home to Morecambe on Thursday. He expects to stay at home for a few days to recover before returning to university.
The Lamberts have been overwhelmed by the messages and support they have received from well-wishers, which have been non-stop since Wednesday afternoon.
“The messages wishing Owen a speedy recovery from family and friends have been a huge comfort to us all,” said his mum Sharon, who works for Bay Medical Group in Morecambe.
“We also want to say a big thank you to the passers-by, the staff at the hospital, the police and everybody who looked after him.
“We are incredibly relieved that he is OK.”
His dad Greg, content editor at The Visitor and Lancaster Guardian, said: “Owen is an incredibly brave lad. He has been through an unimaginable ordeal but is still feeling upbeat and positive, and this is testimony to what kind of a young man he is.
“We are so proud of him and love him very very much. We also can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are to everybody who helped him and everybody who has offered us support.”
Since the horrifying events of Wednesday, Owen has been in touch with his other friends including Travis, from Darwen, Lancashire, who is in King’s College Hospital in London and on Friday, met Prince Charles when he visited victims of the attack.
“I was very worried about him,” said Owen.
“He was the worst injured out of all of us. But we have messaged each other regularly and I’m looking forward to seeing him. We were all incredibly lucky to come out of it alive and in one piece.”
Owen, a former Morecambe Community High and Great Wood school pupil, said he was thinking of the families of those who died and were critically injured in the terrible events of Wednesday afternoon. He realises only too well, it could easily have been him.
“I can’t begin to imagine what they’re going through,” he said.
Owen, who is studying politics and history at Edge Hill, has been told the scar on his forehead will remain for life, is walking with a limp and struggling to move his head, neck and shoulders without pain due to the whiplash impact of the car.
The physical injuries will heal over time but Owen said he will never forget what happened on Wednesday.
But he also said the terrible events in London will not stop him pursuing his ambition which is to make a career in politics.
“I want to make the world a better and gentler place,” he said.
“What happened on Wednesday has made me realise that you have to treat everyone with kindness, tolerance and understanding. That’s because of the overwhelming support I received from the emergency services and everybody who I came into contact with.
“I particularly want to thank Alice, who was with me just after the attack, Emma the junior paramedic who despite her group leaving the scene stayed with some of the walking wounded for hours, and I especially want to thank the two police constables, Ash Rashid and Constable Simmonds, who stayed with me for over nine hours.
“They were professional, helpful, really informative, kept me up to date with what was going on, and they had been up since 7.30am and had 12 hour shifts the next day. They deserve medals.”