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Utahns describe horror, chaos at Boston Marathon explosion scene
Boston » Of 354 runners from Utah, dozens were near finish line when the bombs went off.
First Published Apr 15 2013 02:34 pm • Last Updated Apr 16 2013 09:23 pm

Craig Oberg had successfully completed the 117th Boston Marathon and was resting a block away from the finish line when the earth rocked and a plume of smoke soared skyward.

It was the first of two explosions that caused multiple deaths and dozens of injuries at the marathon’s finish line.

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"I was getting a bottle of water and thought someone had shot off some kind of ceremonial cannon," said Oberg of Ogden , Weber State University’s NCAA faculty representative. "One more water stop [during the race] and I would have been standing there. It’s just horrifying."

Oberg and Weber athletic trainer Joel Bass competed in Monday’s annual marathon. They were two of the 354 Utahns who had entered the race.

Bass completed his run 40 minutes before Oberg and was waiting with Oberg’s wife, Lynette.

They were a half block away and had just ducked into a 7-Eleven for chocolate milk when they felt the explosions. Bass said the plume of smoke rose six stories into the air.

"They had wheelchairs for the racers and they were bringing [injured] people in on them," a shaken Lynette Oberg said. "There was one lady on a stretcher and they were using chest compression."

Oberg said the second explosion went off about five seconds after the first.

"People started running," she said. "People announcing the racers, they started running."

Oberg said the gates used to keep spectators from running onto the course funneled the crowd away from the bomb area. Craig Oberg then noticed armed military personnel on a nearby roof.

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"There are so many people here. Ambulances and SWAT. Medical and military people everywhere," Bass said. "There were 10 or 12 ambulances just on the block I was on."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s daughter, Kim Cahoon, ran the marathon but finished about an hour before the blasts and had left the race.

"As grateful as I am that my daughter is safe and was not nearby when the bombs went off, I am deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy," Herbert said. "This hits home, not only because my daughter was there, but also because many other Utahns participated in the race today."

Based upon finish times, about 50 Utah runners were in the vicinity of the finish line when the blast went off, either just finishing or nearing the race’s conclusion.

Julie Isaacson of Salt Lake City was running the marathon for a second time and her husband, Scott, was waiting about a half mile from the finish line.

When she ran past, he jogged alongside her temporarily until she ran on ahead of him.

Julie crossed the finish line and sat down to catch her breath when she heard and felt "a thunderous explosion."

"My back was initially turned and I was scared and shocked and turned around and thought, ‘Is this a cannon going off?’," she said.

There was pandemonium, but runners were still filing across the finish line and volunteers were still handing out blankets and water. Scott Isaacson was moving toward the finish line when he heard and saw the first blast near the finish line, the area he knew his wife would be.

"Then a couple seconds later, the second one happened right across the street from us," he said.

"It was the same huge, loud bang and you could see it and hear it," he said. "We immediately saw people go down, bloodied and, unfortunately, I think dead, right across the street from us."

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