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VISALIA, Calif. — A former Visalia man found himself in the midst of a deadly terrorist attack while bicycling on London’s Westminster Bridge on Wednesday.

Charles Heaney, 44, was headed across the bridge after finishing a conference near the British Parliament. He had decided to ride his bike, an activity he regularly enjoys. He remembers it being a beautiful day. In his wallet was a religious token given to him by his sweetheart.

While he was stopped at a red light, he turned to a rider next to him and noticed a black SUV barreling toward them.

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“I saw a vehicle coming against me,” he said. “I saw it hit four people. Two went flying into the air.”

The car was missing its bumper, the front end was smashed in.

“We both took a left to get out of the way,” Heaney said. “Everything happened so quickly.”

British authorities said a man drove through the heart of London, hitting pedestrians before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 more were injured.

Heaney is a family practice physician in London. After seeing the car crash into another vehicle and then into a fence, Heaney called the authorities. Then he rushed to help the victims.

“Seconds felt like hours,” he said. “I just jumped into action. I knew I had to get the appropriate procedures in place. My priority was identifying casualties.”

Ambulances arrived within 10 minutes and, in that time, Heaney managed to determine who was severely injured and needed to be treated immediately.

“It was just complete chaos and people died today,” he said softly. “I’m just lucky to be alive. … You never know when this kind of thing is going to happen. I’m … I’m just lucky.”

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Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said police believed there was only one attacker, adding that authorities believe they know the assailant’s identity but would not reveal it while the investigation was ongoing.

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Heaney’s parents, Dave and Agnes Heaney, still live in Visalia.

“My daughter called and told me, ‘I might as well tell you the truth since you’re his mother,’” Agnes said.

Agnes’ daughter, Sarah Heaney, told her that Charles had been at the scene of the attack and had helped triage more than 14 victims.

“He’s a very compassionate person,” Agnes said. “I can see him out there helping everyone.”

Heaney attended Visalia’s Willow Glen Elementary School before attending Green Akers Middle School for a year. His mother sent him to a boarding school in Ireland when he was 14. He finished his medical training in London, where he has lived for the past 10 years.

Agnes said her son told her that the token in his wallet is what kept him safe.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Sheyanne Romero on Twitter: @Sheyanne_VTD

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