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Lancaster man in Charlottesville protests: “She took a deep breath and that was it”

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LANCASTER, Pa. - A local man is recalling the tense times during violent protests this weekend in Charlottesville, Va., including the moments in which he says he and another woman tried to help the woman killed in the demonstrations.

Jack Basile says he went to the demonstrations in Charlottesville last week as an independent journalist hoping to document the ongoing tensions between alt-right groups and counter-protesters.

Things changed in a matter of moments as he was approaching the city's pedestrian Downtown Mall.

"I thought that there was an explosion, and I just didn't register the noise," Basile said of the moment a car crashed into protesters. "Then I saw the car back up and I knew exactly what had happened, and I just ran forward, because I knew the people were going to be hurt."

Basile, a former EMT, says he first encountered a woman with a leg fracture. Once he knew that she was safe,  Basile and another woman located an injured woman struggling to breathe. He says he learned later that it was Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the unrest.

"I saw her laying on her side like trying to gasp for breath and turning blue," Basile said. "I tried to hold her [cervical] spine to keep her neck straight and it was really bad. She had a really bad injury on the back of her head. I checked her pulse, she took a deep breath and that was it."

Basile says he and the other woman continued to administer CPR until police forced them to leave the area. It was a challenge continuing to document what had happened after that, he said, even as he has observed growing tensions between alt-right and anti-fascist groups in the mid-Atlantic region the last few months.

"Just to see it escalate over...one season, escalate to this is horrific, but it was not a surprise at all," Basile said.

Amid claims from both sides that one instigated the other to violence, Basile says a line has been crossed.

"I did see illegal activity; of course, you're standing in the middle of a street," he said. "But that doesn't give anybody the right to drive 45 miles an hour down a block and hit a car and push another car into it."