MUMBAI: An Australian helicopter pilot emerged last night as an unsung hero of the Mumbai massacre, credited with saving the lives of more than 30 people he jammed into a storeroom as the jihadi terrorists embarked on their murderous rampage.
"Aw, it probably all sounds more dramatic than it really was," Steve Smith told The Australian.
"I did what any Aussie would do in the circumstances. It would have been nice if there'd been another Aussie around and we could have done more."
The 43-year-old from Port Macquarie, NSW, who served for seven years in the Australian Army, was with his Japanese model girlfriend Yumi having a drink in Mumbai's Leopold's Cafe last Wednesday night when the armed terrorists struck.
"We were up on the mezzanine floor having a drink when I suddenly heard the sound of a grenade exploding in the downstairs of the cafe, under us. Then there was another one, and almost immediately there was the distinctive sound of almost constant automatic fire from AK-47s," he said.
"There were about 30 people upstairs with us - a few Europeans, but mostly young Indians - and I knew immediately that I had to do something."
Having been in the cafe the previous night, he was aware of a small storeroom off the mezzanine floor. As the firing continued, he grabbed his girlfriend, shoved her into the room and then pushed the rest of the 30 or so people into the tiny space, packing them like sardines into a can and forcing the doors closed once he had got them all in.
"It was like jamming 30 people into an elevator," he said. "They were all on top of each other, all packed in. But there was no alternative. It was either that or die. The firing was going on constantly. I knew that if we didn't hide, we'd be killed."