msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/24/2009 10:38:08 AM ET 2009-06-24T14:38:08

Five French tourists got a harrowing start to their New York visit: a wild police chase.

Authorities say the visitors, seeking a taxi, were instead steered toward an unlicensed van at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Police saw the tourists being taken to the vehicle, and officer reached through the van window to take the keys. But the driver sped off, knocking the officer to the ground. Other police officers chased the vehicle.

Esther-Ethy Mamane, 26, of Paris, told the New York Post that she and her fellow passengers "screamed and prayed."

"It was a miracle that we survived," she said. "We were very frightened."

Mamane said the experience was "like something from a film."

Her mother Claudie Mamane, 60, of Paris, suffered an arm injury.

The Post reported that the van sped for seven miles along a highway and residential streets, hitting a gate and a truck. The suspects jumped out while the van was still moving. Officers, with guns drawn, quickly arrested them.

The Associated Press and msnbc.staff contributed to this report.

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