Limane Lyes is a bus driver by trade, and his first thought when he saw the truck careening down the Promenade des Anglais was that either the driver had fallen asleep or that the brakes had failed. Then he saw the truck deliberately zig-zagging to target families as they tried to flee his trajectory.

"It looked like a combine harvester, it looked a killing machine." Lyes, a 31-year-old from Nice, told The Associated Press on Monday, four days after surviving the Bastille Day attack.

Lyes was 150 meters (yards) from the Lenval Foundation children's hospital, where the first victims were felled, making him one of the first to see the tragedy as it unfolded.

His family of four and his parents were walking eastward, toward the truck, as it began its deadly course. Lyes said his father "had the right instinct," throwing his small children and wife out of harm's way into the median strip. "He saved them," he said.

His mother wasn't so agile.

"However, my mom, I held her hand to run to try to get to the stairs heading to the sea. In my head, I wanted to get to the stairs to escape from the truck knowing that mother is of a certain age," he said. But she couldn't run, so he lifted her out of the way, acting just in time.

As he embraced his mother from behind, the truck struck him in the right hand, breaking the bones and nearly ripping his pinkie off. His mother was shaken but unscathed, he said, cradling his bandaged hand.

Though the truck was white, "I saw the truck black, I saw it dark." Part of that was that the truck's lights were off, he recalled.

Then he watched it careen down the boulevard, people scattering in panic.

"I saw its course, and I realized it wasn't someone who had fallen asleep. He was running over people. So here you go. So here is someone, a barbaric man, someone who tried to kill as many people as he could," he said.