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Survivor Tells How Victims Cowered As Gunman Aimed for Their Heads

April 30, 1996

HOBART, Australia (AP) _ Bruised and bloody, a 54-year-old American today recounted in graphic detail how he and his wife hid while a methodical gunman began a rampage that claimed 35 lives.

``There were no heroes in there,″ said Dennis Olson of Vancouver, Wash. ``There were people cowering, hoping they wouldn’t be his next target.″

The gunman, identified by police as Martin Bryant, 28, opened fire Sunday inside a cafe at Port Arthur, a former colonial prison site south of Hobart.

Olson, a delivery driver, and his 49-year-old wife, Mary, a greeting card store manager, were in Australia on vacation. They were waiting in line to buy sandwiches when a loud bang echoed across the room.

``I thought something like a pressure cooker had exploded,″ Olson said. ``It took a little while for everyone to realize that what was going (on) was death.″

A blond gunman was coolly picking off tourists one at time with a high-powered rifle.

``He shot at the head, one time deliberately at each victim. He wasn’t spraying the room with bullets; he was picking out individuals and shooting them,″ said Olson.

The couple dropped behind a low partition separating the cafeteria line from the dining area.

``Everybody hit the ground. It was really quiet because people had the feeling that if you say anything you would draw his attention and he’d shoot.″

``My wife laid flat on her stomach,″ Olson said. ``I couldn’t just lay down. I felt I had to get up to survive.″

When he looked over the partition he was hit by small pieces of flying debris as bullets ricocheted around the room. Olson suffered minor shrapnel woods to his face and chest.

``I was bleeding all over myself,″ Olson said. ``I crawled up to the end of the wall where another man was under a small table.″ The two waited until the shooting stopped.

Then the man said: ``He’s gone.″

``At that moment the gunman backed up and saw him under the table and shot him in the head,″ Olson said. Horrified, Olson crawled back behind the partition. ``I thought that at any moment I was going to be killed because he had seen me.″

Thirty seconds later, Olson ran out a back door as the gunman walked out the front, where he continued his killing spree. Olson could hear the shots as the man fired on hikers, cars and buses.

Mrs. Olson, who hid behind the partition throughout the shooting, was unharmed but emotionally shaken.

The couple each feared the other was dead. When they were reunited, Olson said, ``We both burst into tears and hugged.″

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