Two young Australians studying at the community college in Oregon where a gunman shot dead nine people say they were just minutes away from being in the line of fire.
The shootings, which also injured seven people and ended with the assailant dying during a shootout with police, shocked the close-knit community of Roseburg and sparked an impassioned plea for gun control from US president Barack Obama.
Australians Staci Richardson and Cody Davison, both 20, said they had planned to be at the Umpqua Community College library at 10:30am (local time) on Thursday, just 10 minutes before the first shooting was reported.
Davison told Seven News Brisbane they were late because a friend asked them to pick him up.
"Literally five minutes and we could have been right in the action," he said.
"I've been thinking about it all day — we could have been in the line of fire."
In a photo posted on a MySpace profile believed to be his, a young man with a shaved head and dark-rimmed eyeglasses is seen staring into the camera while holding a rifle.The shooter has been identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer.
Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic as the tragedy unfolded at the school, located in a picturesque rural region of Oregon