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As court delivers Bali bomber verdict, a survivor recalls the horror

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 8:22 PM EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
  • Peter Hughes was badly injured and was in a coma for nearly three weeks
  • He was one of many Australians on holiday in Bali at the time of the bombings
  • 10 years on, Hughes life is forever changed
  • He is disappointed that accused bombmaker Umar Patek was not sentenced to death

(CNN) -- The world saw him first blackened and bloated, his body marred by cuts, bruises and shrapnel that sliced through his flesh.

That was a decade ago, when Peter Hughes was one of many Australian vacationers in the Indonesian island resort of Kuta. It had been just after 11 p.m., as he was about to reach for his Bintang beer at bustling Paddy's Bar, that the first of three bombs blew up.

Hughes figures the suicide bomber must have been just a few feet from him.

He felt a woman crashing into him. He saw dust, embers and then everything went black and silent.

"There was a moment there where it seemed nothing was happening," he recalled.

Until the second bomb.

Hughes was struggling to get out of Paddy's when a car bomb went off at a nearby nightclub. A third bomb went off later, near the U.S. Consulate in Renon, a suburb of Denpasar, police said.

His body was 50 percent burned. His left calf was blown off. A shard of glass had lodged in his stomach. Cameras captured Hughes' ordeal.

"I couldn't feel the pain because of the shock," he said.

Memories haunt Bali bombing victim

In hospital, Hughes fell into a coma for almost three weeks and went into cardiac arrest three times.

But he survived.

He learned to walk again, talk again. To smell. To taste. But he will never fully recover, he said. How could anyone after something like that?

Now 52, he goes on with his construction business in Perth. And he's become a motivational speaker and written a book, "Back From the Dead."

Thursday, Hughes awaited news of the fate of Umar Patek, an Indonesian man accused of assembling the bombs used in the 2002 Bali attacks.

Three of the bombing masterminds -- Imam Samudra, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron -- were executed in 2008.

Hughes wished the same sentence for Patek.

"Look, he's the highest level of criminal, I think," Hughes said. "Someone who does something premeditated like that deserves the death penalty. He's not to be trusted."

When it was announced that Patek will serve 20 years in jail, Hughes was disappointed.

At least the court found Patek guilty, Hughes said.

"We have to go along with the judges' ruling," he said.

He hopes that Patek will not be treated very well in jail. That's what Hughes will cling to as he goes on with his life.

As the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings approaches, Hughes lives with the scars everyone can see.

"Sometimes it's a battle to prepare your body. If you go to the gym, when you go for a walk," he says.

And then there are scars that are invisible, like the anxiety of being in crowded places.

He reminds himself: "I'm a lot better off than the people who died."

He laughs with the friends who also survived the Bali bombings. They understand.

He's been back to Indonesia 25 times since 2002. He likes to confront his demons, not avoid them.

But October 12, 2002, will forever be a marking point, like a huge blip that went off the charts of his life.

"It was heartbreaking," he said.

It's a memory that no guilty verdict or punishment can ever make better. It will stay with him always.

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