Former Tauranga Boys' College student Tanzeel Khan was in Hagley Park moments after the deadly attack took place.

Khan, who is a member of the University of Canterbury Muslim Students Association, knew people who had been driving to the targeted Al Noor mosque to pray, but ended up taking a wrong turn and ran late.

At 2pm on that fateful Friday, the civil engineering student at the University of Canterbury headed to the University of Canterbury's mosque to pray.

He had barely set foot in the door when he was told that there had been a shooting at Al Noor mosque.

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"It was such a surprise. I didn't expect to hear those two things in a sentence.

"I asked him, there was a shooting at Al Noor and he said 'Yeah, a few people got killed'."

The group immediately went to Hagley Park where terrified people escaping from the shooting had gathered.

One person who had been inside a mosque during the shooting was so traumatised he could not breathe and had to be escorted to the hospital.

"It was real sad ... it puts things in perspective as to how short life can be.

"It can be scary in general."

He said he would have never expected anything like this to happen in New Zealand.