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‘I was absolutely convinced I was going to die:’ Journalists share firsthand account of ambush in Ukraine


By Ramishah Maruf, CNN

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

Dominique van Heerden and Stuart Ramsay were part of a Sky News team that was traveling back to Kiev when their car was ambushed, the reporters told CNN’s chief media corespondent Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” Sunday. Ramsay was injured as 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 to a Ukrainian checkpoint in a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, but eventually turned back for safety reasons.

“We felt that the intensity of the fighting was somehow going up,” van Heerden said. “We started to feel a bit uncomfortable and made the decision.”

Ramsay noted the battlefield is changing constantly — roads that were safe one day may not be safe the next. The team found themselves surrounded by fighting on three sides — the road they chose to go down didn’t “look great,” but it was their only option.

Then the shooting intensified.

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

The journalists were attempting to take cover in the car, but the bullets pierced the vehicle.

“I was absolutely convinced I was going to die,” Ramsay said. “I didn’t think it was any chance the amount of rounds that were coming into that car are going to continue to miss.”

Ramsay has been in cars shot up before. But he said this was different — the bullets were “mashing up the car bit by bit.”

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

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

Van Heerden said Ramsay showed zero signs of slowing down.

“Stewart was remarkably calm, remarkably held together,” van Heerden said. “Considering he had just been shot and considering we’ve all just gone through this horrific experience.”

The journalists found cover and were stuck in garage for up to four hours as fighting raged outside.

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

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

“We were very much sitting ducks and it felt completely out of our hands,” van Heerden said. “We’ve just survived round one are we going to make it through round two?”

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

“The reason we’ve always shown this story was because it’s happening to ordinary people all the time,” Ramsay said. “There’s nothing exceptional in the attack upon us.”

The Sky News team was lucky — they made it out. Veteran cameraman and Ukrainian journalist Pierre Zakrzewski was killed while reporting for Fox News in March. And coping with that loss has the hardest part of the recovery for van Heerden.

“That first week or so it was the elation about being alive,” van Heerden said. “But then when you hear about your colleagues killed and it brings it home just how fortunate 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 there,” an emotional Ramsay told Stelter. “Sorry.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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