Doll picture sums up the 'why?' of Nice truck massacre

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Photographer speaks out on iconic Bastille Day photo
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Photographer speaks out on iconic Bastille Day photo
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH - A body is seen on the ground in Nice, France July 15, 2016 after the Bastille Day truck attack by a driver who ran into a crowd on the Promenade des Anglais that killed scores on July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard SEARCH "GAILLARD BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH - Bodies are seen on the ground July 15, 2016 after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France, July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH - Bodies are seen on the ground July 15, 2016 after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH - Bodies are seen on the ground July 15, 2016 after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
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NICE, France - July 19 (Reuters) - A child's doll lying in the street stares up into the night sky next to a dead body covered in a metallic blanket - an image that has come to symbolize the Bastille Day massacre when 84 people were killed by a truck plowing into holidaying crowds.

But the photographer, who rushed out of his Nice apartment in the confusion and fear of Saturday night, had not even seen the doll when he set to work shooting pictures on the Promenade des Anglais, and like everyone there, still had no real idea of what had happened.

"I couldn't get through on my motorbike and, as I parked, there was a body next to my bike. It was when I looked into my rearview mirror that I saw all the other bodies just behind me," veteran Reuters photographer Eric Gaillard said.

SEE EARLIER: Nice attack investigation: Two more arrests after truck massacre

Around a dozen bodies, some already covered with tablecloths taken from nearby restaurants, lay on what is one of France's best known seaside roads. Police and soldiers - many pointing their guns - were still in a state of confusion.

"The conditions were very difficult, it was dark, police trying to stop us work ... and with some people there who wanted to hit me, who threw stones. I understand. The situation was very chaotic," Gaillard said.

He was not supposed to be working that night, taking time off after covering the Euro 2016 soccer championship. Around 9 p.m. his wife suggested they pop outside to see the annual fireworks, but he persuaded her to stay in watching TV.

When a colleague called from Paris to say a truck had hit people in central Nice, he assumed it was a traffic accident - not something his international news agency would normally cover.

"Suddenly I received an alert on my phone, the local authority announcing there had been an attack. I didn't stop to wonder what it was, I grabbed my camera and set out on my motorbike."

Gaillard, 58, has seen plenty of death and destruction in his 31 years with Reuters, but he never expected to see a war zone outside his flat on the Cote d'Azur.

"When you go to a war you know it's a hostile environment, you expect to see some unpleasant things ... (but) I was very shaken by what I saw that night because it's my city, Nice, 500 meters from my home, in a holiday setting."

See memorials and vigils from around the world after the attack:

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Vigils around the world for the Nice attack victims
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Vigils around the world for the Nice attack victims
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016, to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Members of the Australian French community cry as they sing the French national anthem during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 15: French ambassador to Thailand Gilles Garachonk (4th R) joins a vigil to remember the victims of the attack in the French city of Nice at the Alliance Francaise, on July 15, in Bangkok, Thailand. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
Indian citizens take part in a candle light vigil for the victims of the Mumbai attacks in New Delhi on December 7, 2008.India accuses the banned Islamist movement Laskhar-e-Taiba of training and equipping the 10 militants who stormed India's financial capital by boat to kill 188 people and leaving more than 300 others injured during the 60-hour orgy of violence that saw two luxury hotels and a number of other sites targeted. AFP PHOTO/ Manpreet ROMANA (Photo credit should read MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In the courtyard of the apt. building where killer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, lived, (LÂR) Kolleen Alldridge, hugs her son, Gavyn Alldridge, 4, while apartment complex manager, Alice Thompson, huddles close to her friend during a candle light vigil where neighbors are trying to come to terms with the shooting, in Killeen, Texas November 07, 09. THe neighbors all said what a nice person Mr Hasan was. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A boy lays a candles to form a heart around a bag reading 'Nice Olympic Swimming' during a candlelight vigil for swimming gold medallist Camille Muffat on March 10, 2015 her hometown, the southeastern French city of Nice, after she died along with nine other people in a helicopter crash in Argentina while filming a reality TV show. France was plunged into mourning on March 10 after three well-known sports stars, including the Olympic champion swimmer and one of the world's best sailors, died when two helicopters filming the survival series 'Dropped' smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province, local officials said. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A hand holds a candle and a French flag above the crowd during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day attack, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
People stand around a circle of candles during a moment of silence at a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A young woman wipes her face as people honor victims of the Bastille Day attack with a moment of silence during a vigil, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Indian school children attend a prayer ceremony in memory of victims of a truck attack in France, at a school in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing dozens of people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
Flowers are pictured near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A woman puts flowers near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People react near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A man walks through the gates of the French Embassy in Madrid, Spain, Friday, July 15, 2016, past flowers and tributes left outside. France has been stunned again after a large white truck killed many people after it mowed through a crowd of revellers gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the Riviera city of Nice. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry lay flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / Vasily MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People lay flowers outside the French embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 15 condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man lays flowers in front of the French embassy in Kiev French the day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people on July 15, 2016. A Tunisian-born man zigzagged a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing at least 84 and injuring dozens of children in what President Francois Hollande on July 15 called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
A sand sculpture about the France truck attack looks at the Bay of Bengal Sea's eastern coast beach at Puri, creating by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik to condemn this terror attack near by 65 km away from the eastern Indian city Bhubaneswar, India, on 15 July 2016. (Photo by Biswaranjan Rout/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man places flowers in front of the French Embassy in Berlin on July 15, 2016, after the deadly attacks in Nice. A man drove a truck into a crowd watching fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15, 2016: Flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow commemorating victims of the 2016 terror attack in the French resort city of Nice. On 14 July 2016, a truck ploughed into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. 84 people were killed in the attack. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images)
A girl holds up a placard during a prayer meet to show solidarity with the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A man reacts near bouquets of flowers as people pay tribute near the scene where a truck ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores and injuring more who were celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday, in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. The placard reads, "Tribute to the people killed in the terror attack in France". REUTERS/Amit Dave TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The doll photo has gone viral on the internet, and often been captioned to say it shows a dead child beneath the foil emergency blanket, but in fact nobody knows for sure the age of the victim.

"Given its size, I don't think it was a child. I don't know why the doll is there," Gaillard said. "Was it a parent who was with a child - hence the doll? Did someone put the doll there at some point, for some unknown reason? Everyone is asking me."

Gaillard agrees that of all the photos he took that night, this one is the most poignant. But shots that show victims lying under the palm trees next to the beach convey the shocking scene of mass murder in a peaceful holiday town.

"It's people who are strolling, people jogging, people in their swimming costumes. And here they are ... the wider angle views with bodies left and right are also very symbolic of that evening." (Writing by Robin Pomeroy, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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