Of all the tales of heroism from the horrors of Friday (Saturday NZ time), one stood out: that of a man who gave his life to save a young woman.

Parcel worker Ludovic Boumbas was out with Chloe Clement celebrating a mutual friend's birthday at the La Belle Equipe café when gunmen attacked.

As the terrorists sprayed the bar with bullets, Mr Boumbas, 40, threw himself in front of Miss Clement - sacrificing his own life - so she could survive.

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Miss Clement suffered a bullet wound to the arm and now lies in a hospital bed, remembering her many friends and colleagues who died during the birthday celebrations.

The majority of the 19 victims at the café were from their group, most of whom worked at another restaurant, Café des Anges. Among those killed were the birthday girl herself, Houda Saadi, a 35-year-old waitress at Café des Anges, and her sister Halima, 36. Their brothers Khaled and Bashir tried to save the women as they died in their arms.

Ludovic Boumbas gave his life to save his friend. Photo: @chilavertlille/Twitter
Ludovic Boumbas gave his life to save his friend. Photo: @chilavertlille/Twitter

Mr Boumbas's friends hailed his bravery. One said: 'Ludo threw himself forward to protect a girl and took the bullet. She was also shot, but she survived. He loved travelling the world and above all he loved people. He was just one of life's good, good people. He didn't stand a chance.'

Miss Clement's manager at Café des Anges, Virgile Grunberg, said after visiting her in hospital: 'She was on morphine and was in shock. She would barely speak. She felt guilty because Ludovic died for her. She just kept repeating his name again and again.'

Witnesses described the scenes of carnage after the attack at La Belle Equipe. Restaurant worker Romain Ranouil, 48, said: 'At first I thought it was scaffolding collapsing, because it was a very metallic sound. Then I saw people slumped on the tables, dead. I knew many of them.

'Some people were screaming in agony, but most were silent, just trying to breathe and hold on to their life.'

- Daily Mail