The IKF Ireland Kickboxing team who fought in the Unified World Martial Arts/Kickboxing Championships in Marina Di Carrara in Tuscany were caught up in what was at the time, a suspected terror attack.
However, it transpired that it was a demonstration of weapons training involving shooting blanks that went wrong and no one was properly warned.
The man responsible for firing off several rounds from a handgun was arrested and taken away by Italian police.
Irish team manager and Galway Black Dragon Kickboxing Gym chief coach, Peter Foley said there was a great sense of fear and confusion around the complex which resulted in a stampede that led to two Irish fighters being injured.
“I was wrapping the hand of one of my fighters when we heard three to four gunshots, we thought it may have been crackers. But then there was a volley of shots in succession, maybe 11 or 12, and that is when the stampede started. People were screaming and babies were crying. Thousands of people from 100 plus countries were fleeing for their lives in panic and Italian cops swooped into action within seconds with weapons drawn and almost killing the shooter.
“Within minutes, the complex was full of rapid response cops and two police helicopters were circling the skies outside. The Italian’s police response was very quick and impressive. Thankfully it was only a weapons demonstration but it was a very scary experience. We were terrified.”
Two members of the Irish team were injured in the ensuing stampede, Kinvara’s Cian McCormack and Sean Ryan from Cong in Mayo.
McCormack injury resulted in him missing the two finals in which he was due to compete.
Mr Foley said that Cian was on track for a hat trick this year after winning gold medals in 2015 and 2016.
“He was the top seed in the 63.5kg category but unfortunately, he injured himself running from the scene in bare feet and was unable to compete in his two finals.He was bitterly disappointed because he had put so much effort into training and fundraising for these championships,” he said.
Athenry fighter James Kelly (18 ) was hailed a hero after he helped reunite a mother with her son.
“James was hailed as a hero by a very distressed English lady who was separated from her son and was beside herself with fear but James had picked up the youngster and took him to safety,” said Mr Foley.
The Irish team had tremendous success as they brought home 37 medals in total - 18 gold, 11 silver, and eight bronze.
County Galway were well represented on the medal’s table with Alex Fitzpatrick, Damien Creavin, Peter Sheppard, Whitney Sheppard, and Corey O’Malley securing medals in their respective categories.