Monday 26 September 2016

'There was shouting... we just ran to our hotel' - Irish grandparents tell of Tunisia beach attack horror

Noel McAdam

Published 29/06/2015 | 11:26

Two Irish grandparents have told how they ran for their lives as a killer opened fire on tourists on a beach in Tunisia.

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Robert and Wilma McKenzie were just 100 yards from the gunman when he opened fire, killing 38 people.

They had been enjoying a two-week break in Sousse when terrified tourists came running towards them, telling them to flee.

The couple, who have four children and six grandchildren, arrived back home in south Belfast on Saturday and revealed they had not heard the gunfire.

"I didn't hear the shooting because we were sitting beside a big speaker on the beach where they were holding an aqua aerobics class," Mr McKenzie said.

"A minute before, two beautiful horses came down past us with police officers on them. I asked for a picture of them and went back to my sunlounger.

"The next thing the horses came flying down the beach. Suddenly there was shouting telling us 'get off the beach, get off the beach'.

"We just ran to our hotel."

The couple have holidayed in the country around a dozen times over the last six or seven years because they say the "absolutely beautiful people look after you so well".

And an Irish couple have said it was a miracle they were not injured or killed in the attack which claimed the lives of their new friends Larry and Martina Hayes from Westmeath.

"Anthony and Betty Tunstead, 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 sunbeds 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," Mrs Tunstead said.

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

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

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

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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