‘I was absolutely convinced I was going to die’: Journalists share first-hand account of Ukraine ambush

New York

Two Sky News reporters said they were lucky to be alive after their vehicle was ambushed outside Kyiv.

Dominique van Heerden and Stuart Ramsay were part of a Sky News crew returning to Kyiv when their car was ambushed, reporters told CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter on ‘Reliable Sources’ on Sunday. . Ramsay was injured when bullets pierced their vehicle and van Heerden was with him trying to get help.

The team set out on what was normally a 30-minute drive from a Ukrainian checkpoint in a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, but eventually turned back for safety reasons.

“We felt the intensity of the fights was increasing somehow,” van Heerden said. “We started to feel a bit uneasy and made the decision.”

Ramsay noted that the battlefield is constantly changing – roads that were safe one day may not be the next. The team found themselves surrounded by fighting on three sides – the route they chose wasn’t “very pretty”, but it was their only option.

Then the shooting intensified.

“It was like being in a washing machine with balls,” van Heerden said. “Of course the car wasn’t turning, but the bullets were everywhere.”

The journalists tried to hide in the car, but the bullets pierced the vehicle.

“I was absolutely convinced I was going to die,” Ramsay said. “I didn’t think there was a chance that the number of bullets coming into this car would continue to run low.”

Ramsay has been in shot cars before. But he said it was different – the bullets were “crushing the car little by little”.

Ramsay was eventually hit and said he fell 20 to 30 feet on his head, likely suffering from a concussion. There was an entry wound in his upper leg and the bullet exited through his lower back.

“It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would, but I’m sure it’s the adrenaline of course,” Ramsay said.

Van Heerden said Ramsay showed no signs of slowing down.

“Stewart was remarkably calm, remarkably maintained,” van Heerden said. “Considering he had just been shot and considering we all just went through that horrible experience.”

The journalists took cover and were stuck in a garage until four o’clock as fighting raged outside.

“No idea what’s going on,” Ramsay said. “And no idea if anyone will even be able to come and rescue us and are we on the front line now.”

For van Heerden, the most terrifying time was spent in the garage.

“We were really sitting ducks and it got away from us completely,” van Heerden said. “We just survived the first round, are we going to make it through the second? »

Their extraction seemed “miraculous”, Ramsay said, once they heard the sounds of Ukrainian police coming up the building’s stairs.

“The reason we’ve always shown this story is because it happens to everyday people all the time,” Ramsay said. “There is nothing exceptional about the attack against us.”

The Sky News team were lucky – they pulled it off. Ukrainian veteran cameraman and journalist Pierre Zakrzewski was killed while reporting for Fox News in March. And coping with that loss has been the hardest part of van Heerden’s recovery.

“That first week or so was the excitement of being alive,” van Heerden said. “But then when you hear about your colleagues being killed and it reminds you how lucky we were. And then it just makes you wonder why.

Ramsay, who was good friends with Zakrzewski, could not respond.

“I’m sorry. I can’t go,” an emotional Ramsay told Stelter. “Sorry.”

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