Thursday 8 December 2016

'He was roaring at the top of his head and letting the gun go off... I was terrified to move'

Laura Larkin

Published 29/06/2015 | 02:30

An Irish couple have told how they narrowly escaped being in the centre of the Tunisian tragedy which claimed the lives of their new friends.

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Anthony and Betty Tunstead said that it was a miracle they were not injured or killed in Friday's devastating terror attack.

The couple are also trying to come to terms with the death of Larry and Martina Hayes from Westmeath, who they had spent a lot of their holiday with.

"Larry was the type of person that if he had been alive, he would have been running around everywhere, helping everyone," Ms Tunstead said.

"Everybody loved Larry. He was just gregarious, he was very, very funny.

"He was the life and soul of the party, a really great man.

"Martina was lovely. They were great together, she just laughed at everything," Mr Tunstead said.

"She was really terrific," Ms Tunstead added.

The couple, from Ballymun in Dublin, were on holiday with her sister Mary and her husband Denis. They were due to switch hotels for the second week of their holiday and believe that's what saved them.

"Every day we sat on the same sun beds that were kept for us, but on Friday we said there was no point as we were changing hotels, other than that he would have massacred us. Or if we had been down checking out on time we would have been killed too," Ms Tunstead said.

Mr Tunstead was the first of his party of four to realise what was happening.

"There were a few shots first and then, all of a sudden, I heard the tat-tat-tat-tat of a machine gun," Mr Tunstead said.

From the second-floor landing he saw Seifeddine Rezgui, the 24-year-old student behind the rampage.

"I wasn't 30 yards from him. He just came from nowhere and jumped up onto marble parapet in the lobby.

"I was thinking afterwards that if he had seen me first, I was dead. He would have sliced me in two.

"That was an act of God in itself that he didn't see me.

"He was roaring and shouting at the top of his head and letting the gun go off...I was terrified to move.

"I had visions that when I was running back to the room I was going to meet another attacker."

The four spent 90 minutes trapped in their hotel room and afterwards comforted the fiancé of a woman who was killed.

"He just kept screaming 'tell me where she is', it was harrowing," Ms Tunstead said. Their fears then turned to their new friends from Athlone, whom they had been due to have lunch with, and they scoured the hotel.

They only heard yesterday morning they had definitely been killed.

When leaving the resort for the airport that night the couple saw the bloody spot where the gunman had been shot by police, they added.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the Tunisian terror attack as 'appalling'.

Mr Kenny said his sympathies went out to the families of the three Irish victims, Lorna Carty and  Laurence (Larry) and Martina Hayes.

“It’s appalling and my sympathies and the sympathies of everybody go to the families of the three Irish people who lost their lives here.

“This is an act of terrorism and racism. That people from all over the world would go to a country to enjoy holidays, enjoy the sunshine and have havoc and tragedy wreaked upon them by fundamentalists, which is just appalling,” he added.

Speaking in Castlebar this morning, Mr Kenny said the Government would do everything it could to assist the families affected.

“Obviously the Government here, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will make every effort available to bring consolation, understanding and support for the families involved but we can never bring them back from the point where they went on their holidays,” he added. 

Irish Independent

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