LONDON — England's chief coroner has begun an inquest into the death of five people last year in an extremist attack on Britain's Parliament, saying it was "82 seconds of high and terrible drama."
Mark Lucraft said Monday that the "lives of many were torn apart" in that brief period when an extremist killed four people on Westminster Bridge in a rented vehicle and then fatally stabbed a police officer guarding Parliament.
Dozens more were injured in the March 22, 2017 attack carried out by 52-year-old Khalid Masood, who was shot dead after crashing his car and rushing onto the Parliament grounds.
The coroner asked for a minute's silence to honor the victims at the start of the inquest.
The proceedings included brief portraits of the victims.
Melissa Cochran, whose husband Kurt Cochran was one of those killed on the bridge that leads toward Parliament, provided a statement to the inquest that was read on her behalf by her sister, Angela Stoll. The Cochrans had been in London on holiday.
Melissa Cochran, who was reported to have been too upset to pay her tribute in person, said her husband had died trying to save her from the attacker.
"He was my best friend, my husband and my everything," she said. "I was so lucky to have had 25 wonderful years with the man of my dreams. He made me laugh every single day. I cherish every single memory we made."
She added: "No words will bring Kurt back or anyone else who has died senselessly in such cowardly attacks on humanity."
Lawyer Gareth Patterson, who represents three of the bereaved families, said images from the scene showed the attacker was deliberately targeting walkers on the bridge.
He said it looks like people were being struck like "human bowling pins" and "thrown into the air like rag dolls."
The Parliament attack was the first in a series of major extremist attacks on British soil in 2017, during which dozens were killed. It was followed by the May bombing of a concert hall in Manchester, a June attack on London Bridge and Borough Market and an attack in the same month on a mosque in Finsbury Park.
The inquest is expected to determine the cause of death for each victim of the Parliament attack.
Britain's official terrorism threat level is set by intelligence analysts as "severe," indicating an attack is thought to be highly likely.