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home : top news : top news July 22, 2014

4/16/2013 8:35:00 AM
Local Runners Narrowly Miss Bombings
Abby Iselborn competes in a marathon recently.
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Abby Iselborn competes in a marathon recently.

Nick Wheeler of Bangor, Maine, grew up in Derby and competed last year in the Boston Marathon. He did not this year to watch his girlfriend compete. They had left the area when the explosions occurred Monday.
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Nick Wheeler of Bangor, Maine, grew up in Derby and competed last year in the Boston Marathon. He did not this year to watch his girlfriend compete. They had left the area when the explosions occurred Monday.

Paul Hayes
Staff Writer

BOSTON --George Linton was two blocks from the finish line when he heard a boom.

He turned to look, saw a plume of smoke, and then heard a second explosion.

"I guess I'm very lucky," said Linton, 70, of Coventry. "I cramped up at mile 25 and thought I might have to walk in. Had I walked in I would have been in the middle of it."

Two bombs exploded moments apart near the finish of the Boston Marathon at around 3 p.m. Monday, shattering the peace and tranquility of an idyllic spring day, killing at least three and injuring over 130.

Linton had completed the marathon in a time of 3:53.44 and proceeded two blocks along Boylston Street to retrieve his warm-ups when the explosions occurred 15 minutes later.

Neither Linton nor those around him could see the bloody aftermath of the bomb blasts or the emergency responders scrambling to treat victims.

"We were far enough away we didn't hear any screams. We turned to each other and asked what it was," said Linton. "Some guy said 'Oh, it's probably a transformer,' because I guess those can explode."

"We were all hoping that's what it was, but clearly it was not."

Nearby 36-year-old Sandra Laflamme of Monroe, N.H., was on the phone with her family, sharing her excitement after setting a new personal record (3:34.29) and qualifying for next year's marathon. Moments after she hung up the explosion occurred.

"Someone in the crowd said it must be something for Patriot's Day," she said. "But I had a sinking feeling."

The severity of the situation soon became clear.

Without stopping to put on his warm-ups, Linton made a beeline for Boston Common, located a mile away, where he met his wife, Mary Ellen, and brother, Lance. They left the city immediately.

He recalled seeing a flood of police, fire and ambulance vehicles heading towards the marathon's finish area. Other police officers ran by on foot. Rumors swirled about the discovery of additional bombs.

"Once I got to Boston Common all hell broke loose," said Linton.

Meanwhile Laflamme was stranded. She spent four hours waiting for her husband, who was sidetracked when the subways were evacuated, forcing him to go back, get his car and then drive into the city.

She had difficulty maintaining contact with family and friends because cell phone service was extremely limited.

"I was feeling pretty shaken up," said Laflamme. "I didn't know what was going on. I was worried, upset and by myself."

"Thankfully there were some really friendly people. Everyone was looking for their loved ones everyone was helping each other out."

It was a somber end to an otherwise beautiful day. It was perfect weather for a marathon -- clear skies, no wind and the temperature hovering comfortably around 50 degrees -- and runners were noticeably energetic and excited at the start of the race, Linton said.

"For it to end like that is," said Linton, his voice trailing off. "You don't think these things are going to touch you. But that was close. I was right there. I just cant believe it."

Shortly before Linton finished, Nick Wheeler watched his girlfriend Abby Iselborn cross the finish line.

"When she crossed the finish line everything seemed perfectly normal," said Wheeler, a Derby native who ran the marathon himself last year.

Wheeler, 27, who now lives in Bangor, Maine, saw his girlfriend from Portland run within yards of where the explosions occurred 20 minutes later.

"She literally ran by both points," he said.

He helped her collect her gear at the family waiting area and they left by subway. They found out about the explosions and the news that some people had lost limbs when they arrived at her sister's home a mile from the finish line.

Like many others in Boston, Wheeler struggled to find a functioning cellular service to call his parents Scott and Penny Wheeler in Derby to say they were OK.

Wheeler had not heard of any threats or any reason why this marathon, one of the top five in the world, would be a target for an attack.

More than 23,000 runners began the race and around 17,600 had finished when the explosions occurred. The remainder of the race was cancelled and nearly 4,500 runners did not finish, including Meghan Cole.

Cole, the daughter of former Littleton resident Mark Cole, had passed the 16 mile mark when the bombs were detonated. She was stopped at the 21 mile mark and did not meet up with her father again until two-and-a-half hours later, at about 5:30 p.m.

Other local residents who participated in the marathon and who were not harmed included Hal Goolman of Lancaster, N.H., Sandra Laflamme of Monroe, N.H., Jennifer McCormack of West Burke, Vt., Craig Pierce of Newport, Vt., Jason Raehl of Littleton, N.H., Christopher Royer of Coventry, Vt., Jaime Schmidt of Lancaster, N.H., Lynn Stanford of Lancaster, N.H., and Andrew Tobin of Lancaster, N.H.

Staff Writer Robin Smith contributed to this report.

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