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Nice, France truck attack survivor: "It looked like a killing machine"

NICE, France -- Limane Lyes is a bus driver by trade, and his first thought when he saw the truck careening down the Promenade des Anglais was that either the driver had fallen asleep or that the brakes had failed. Then he saw the truck deliberately zig-zagging to target families as they tried to flee his trajectory.

"It looked like a combine harvester, it looked a killing machine." Lyes, a 31-year-old from Nice, told The Associated Press on Monday, four days after surviving the Bastille Day attack.

Lyes was 150 meters from the Lenval Foundation children's hospital, where the first victims were felled, making him one of the first to see the tragedy as it unfolded.

His family of four and his parents were walking eastward, toward the truck, as it began its deadly course. Lyes said his father "had the right instinct," throwing his small children and wife out of harm's way into the median strip. "He saved them," he said.

His mother wasn't so agile.

"However, my mom, I held her hand to run to try to get to the stairs heading to the sea. In my head, I wanted to get to the stairs to escape from the truck knowing that mother is of a certain age," he said. But she couldn't run, so he lifted her out of the way, acting just in time.

As he embraced his mother from behind, the truck struck him in the right hand, breaking the bones and nearly ripping his pinkie off. His mother was shaken but unscathed, he said, cradling his bandaged hand.

Though the truck was white, "I saw the truck black, I saw it dark." Part of that was that the truck's lights were off, he recalled.

Then he watched it careen down the boulevard, people scattering in panic.

"I saw its course, and I realized it wasn't someone who had fallen asleep. He was running over people. So here you go. So here is someone, a barbaric man, someone who tried to kill as many people as he could," he said.

The uncle of the truck driver said nephew was indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Nice.

French officials could not confirm Monday that attacker Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel had been approached by an Algerian recruiter, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

ISIS claimed responsibility for last week's attack, though Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that investigators have found no sign yet that Bouhlel had links to a particular network.

Speaking Monday, a French prosecutor said Bouhlel had searched online for information about the recent attack by a gunman at an Orlando nightclub -- which was also claimed by ISIS but not believed to be connected directly to the group -- and for ISIS propaganda. He reitterated, however, that investigators had found no concrete links between Bouhlel and the terror group.

ISIS claims France attack 02:19

Prosecutor Francois Molins did say that Bouhlel's interest in jihadist content online seemed to emerge in just the weeks leading up to the attack.

The driver's uncle, Sadok Bouhlel, told The Associated Press that given Bouhlel's family problems -- he was estranged from his wife and three children -- the Algerian "found in Mohamed an easy prey for recruitment."

Bouhlel's rapid radicalization has puzzled investigators. Friends and family said he had not been an observant Muslim in the past. Cazeneuve said Monday on RTL radio that the driver may have been motivated by ISIS messages but not necessarily coordinating with a larger network.

"Mohamed didn't pray, didn't go to the mosque and ate pork," said Sadok Bouhlel, a 69-year-old retired teacher, in the driver's hometown of Msaken, Tunisia. The uncle said he learned about the Algerian recruiter from extended family members who live in Nice.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer said Bouhlel was employed as a truck driver and was known to the police before his rampage. He had a history of violence, but police said they never saw any indication he'd been radicalized.

Terror in Nice 04:50

Meanwhile, the attack in Nice has hit close to home.

University of California, Berkeley, officials confirmed Sunday that one of their students was among the dead.

Nicolas Leslie is the third American confirmed among the victims. An Austin-area father and son who were vacationing with their family are also among those who died in the attack, relatives said Friday.

Several hundred people attended a vigil held Monday in honor of Leslie.

Childhood friends and classmates described the environmental science major as a happy and generous young man who lived life to the fullest and lit up rooms with a radiant smile.

Campus Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell said Leslie's parents hope other Berkeley students will follow his example by working for positive change in the world.

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