11/09/2018 15:09 BST

First Westminster Terror Attack Victim Died As Big Ben Chimed, Inquest Told

Kurt and Melissa Cochran had been "walking along, having a nice time".

American tourist Kurt Cochran, pictured left, was the first victim of the Westminster terror attack

The first victim of the Westminster terror attack died as Big Ben chimed, just minutes after he had heroically saved his wife, an inquest was told on Tuesday. 

American tourist Kurt Cochran had been on a whistlestop tour of London with his wife Melissa when they were both struck by a car on Westminster Bridge on 22 March last year. 

The 54-year-old pushed his wife away, bearing the full impact of Khalid Masood’s hired Hyundai Tucson, sending him flying over the balustrade and on to the embankment below.

He suffered severe injuries and was pronounced dead 17 minutes after a paramedic arrived, as Big Ben struck 3pm, an Old Bailey inquest into the tragedy heard.

A timeline showing Khalid Masood's rampage on 22 March last year

The terror attack claimed five lives, including that of PC Keith Palmer. 

Giving evidence, Melissa Cochran told how she and her husband had been visiting London from the US as part of a tour of Europe for their wedding anniversary.

After visiting a number of tourist attractions, the pair ended up at Westminster Abbey.

“We had one day in London so we were cramming everything in we could,” she said.

PA Wire/PA Images
Kurt Cochran died after saving the life of his wife Melissa 

Mrs Cochran remembered looking to her right on the bridge with her husband on the left as a car approached.

“My next recollection, after I read some of the witness statements, I remember seeing the front of a car revving,” she said. 

“I remember seeing the front of the vehicle. The next thing I remember, being on the ground.”

Mrs Cochran was badly injured during the attack and spent about a month recovering in hospital afterwards.

PA Wire/PA Images
Kurt Cochran and his wife Melissa before Masood's attack

Gareth Patterson QC, who is representing three of the victims, asked: “Kurt’s right arm went out. Do you remember when he reached across and then pushed you out of the way?”

Mrs Cochran said she had no memory of her husband’s heroics, but said it was typical of him. 

Kylie Smith, a teacher who was accompanying a group of teenage schoolchildren on a trip to London that day, said Masood had deliberately targeted Cochran as he stood by a souvenir stand on the bridge.

“It was very clearly a deliberate act. The way he turned the car to change the direction,” she told the inquest.

Masood deliberately drove at people the inquest heard

“There was a couple walking hand in hand who I had previously been watching across the bridge, walking along having a nice time.

“The car came towards them. The man tried to pull his girlfriend behind him, tried to shield her from the impact.

“The man went over the car and just flew up in the air.

“It was chaos. It was just chaos. People trying to get out of the way but nobody really had a chance.”

Neil Hulbert and his nephew had been strolling along the South Bank after a trip on the London Eye when they heard an “almighty crash”.

Hulbert described Cochran “flying through the air” over the balustrade of Westminster Bridge, landing two or three metres away from him.

First aider Hulbert said he knelt down by the unconscious man while someone else called 999.

Specialist nurse Tanya Henshaw described medics’ attempts to save Cochran, saying: “I think it was probably fairly obvious to all of us that Kurt probably was not going to survive. We carried on as long as we could.”

Paramedic James Richards described how Cochran died at 3pm, 17 minutes after he arrived at the scene,

“I went to the edge of the bridge and looked over. I saw my patient Mr Cochran in a splayed out position with a couple of people around him.”

At first he had “rasping” breath but his condition deteriorated in the 17 minutes the paramedic was there.

After he was pronounced dead, Richards was instructed to move on and treat more casualties.

The witness said he remembered the exact time as Big Ben was chiming.

In the space of 82 seconds Masood, 52, knocked down Cochran; Leslie Rhodes, 75; Aysha Frade, 44 and Andreea Cristea, 31, before stabbing PC Palmer to death at the gates to the Palace of Westminster.

The rampage ended when he was shot dead by a plainclothes police officer who had rushed to the scene.