A young woman kissed her fiance and told him “I love you” moments before she was struck by a van, the inquest into the London Bridge terror attack has heard.
Three women and five men died on June 3 2017 after three men ploughed into crowds in a white van before stabbing revellers with 12in ceramic knives near Borough Market.
The victims were Christine Archibald, 30, Xavier Thomas, 45, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sara Zelenak, 21, Kirsty Boden, 28, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39.
All eight victims were killed and 48 more were seriously injured in less than 10 minutes of “high and terrible drama”, chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC said.
The attackers, Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, who wore fake explosive belts, were shot dead by police.
At the start of the victims’ inquests, families paid tribute to their loved ones in a packed Court One of the Old Bailey.
Canadian Ms Archibald was visiting London for the weekend with fiance Tyler Ferguson when she was hit and dragged under the wheels of the attackers’ van.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Ferguson said they had been “very much looking forward” to spending the rest of their lives together and starting a family.
On the day of the attack, Ms Archibald, who worked in a shelter, was feeling “proud” about negotiating the London Underground when they met for dinner.
Mr Ferguson said: “We decided to walk over London Bridge, at one point Chrissy stopped me out of nowhere, grabbed me close and gave me a passionate kiss after telling me she loved me. I remember it being a warm summer’s evening and the sun had just gone down.
“And then the attack took place and Chrissy was killed.
“No words can express how I felt when this happened, I was absolutely devastated and inconsolable.
“Chrissy’s ring was initially lost but during the clean-up of the bridge it was found and returned to me – I still wear it on a gold chain around my neck.”
The van also struck French father-of-two Mr Thomas, who was with his girlfriend Christine Delcros on the bridge.
Mr Thomas had been on the phone to his teenage son Nicolas moments before he was catapulted into the River Thames and Ms Delcros was badly injured.
The attackers then crashed the van into railings and ran amok around Borough Market, with knives attached to their wrists with duct tape.
The area was swarming with revellers enjoying a warm evening on the night of the Champions League final.
Nurse Ms Boden was stabbed in the neck after she rushed to help waiter Mr Pigeard, who was chased by the three attackers despite being mortally hurt.
Her British partner James Hodder said: “To Kirsty, her actions that night would have just been an extension of how she lived her life.
“We are so unspeakably proud of her and not a day goes by that we are not in awe of her bravery that night.”
Mr McMullan was celebrating getting financial backing for his online education company in the Barrowboy and Banker pub on the night he was killed.
His sister Melissa said he was “excited” and “giddy” when he called his mother to say “everything was going to be OK, that he was going to be able to look after her”.
Electronic music collective member Mr Pigeard’s tribute took the form of a picture montage.
His musician father Philippe Pigeard said he was “devastated” and “inconsolable”.
He said: “I’m not just a father, I’m all the fathers in the world and all the mothers in the world who have been struck by similar tragedies.”
Australian au pair Ms Zelenak was on a “trip of a lifetime” when she was knifed to death while on a night out with a friend, her family said.
The mother of chef Mr Belanger, Josiane Belanger, told the court: “We miss him so much, his smile, his joie de vivre. I do not forgive what they did to him. They mutilated and killed him.”
Earlier, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, the head of UK counter-terrorism policing Neil Basu and the Commissioner of City of London Police Ian Dyson joined the families in standing for a minute’s silence inside the historic courtroom.
The attack came just three months after Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death.
The inquests are expected to examine why there were still no barriers to protect pedestrians on London Bridge by June 3.
Families will also want answers to how Butt was able to plan and carry out the attack while he was under investigation by security services.