Wednesday 28 September 2016

Tunisia terror attack: 'There was a stampede of people screaming: He has a gun' - Irishwoman

Published 30/06/2015 | 02:30

Marian King
Marian King
Tourists take part in a gathering in solidarity with Tunisia's tourism industry, on June 29, 2015 on the island of Djerba, following a deadly gun attack at a holiday resort near Sousse.

A woman has revealed how she barricaded herself inside a bedroom in her Tunisian hotel as she feared a gunman could have been stalking the corridor outside.

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Marian King, who was on holiday in the popular town of Sousse when gunman Seifeddine Rezgui (23) struck, also revealed she saw a terrified woman run into their hotel screaming that her husband had been shot.

Ms King (53), from Lucan in Dublin, was about to check out of the hotel last Friday when Rezgui opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, killing 38 tourists, including Irish husband and wife Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone in Co Westmeath, and Lorna Carty from Robinstown Co Meath.

Read more: Should I go ahead with my Tunisia holiday?

"We were in our hotel, the Bellview, which is next door, a sister hotel to the Marhaba, and we were on our way down to the beach at the time it happened," said Ms King, who was on holidays with her partner and two teenage children. She said they witnessed the ensuing chaos rather than the attack itself.

"We were about to check out and it was near 12pm, the first that I was aware that there was anything wrong was on the way to the lobby and there were people looking out the window and said it seemed somebody had been shot on the beach.

"When I got into the actual lobby itself a British lady came running in screaming that her husband had been shot and he was lying on a sun bed on the beach, covered in blood, and she didn't know if he was alive or dead," she recalled. "This lady was frantically running from one staff member to the next trying to get some help, but a lot of the staff didn't have enough English to understand what she was saying because she was obviously in a state of panic.

Read more: Tunisia attack: Limited refunds for holidaymakers

People hold hands as they pray in a circle around bouquets of flowers laid in tribute on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People hold hands as they pray in a circle around bouquets of flowers laid in tribute on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People place flowers on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Women react on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A family reacts beside flowers laid on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Russian tourists are seen shopping at the old medina in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Residents of the coastal town of Sousse in Tunisia place flowers and messages during a gathering at the scene of Friday's shooting attack, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
People place lit candles in the sand in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra BensemraÄ®
People place lit candles in the sand in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A lit candle is seen in the sand in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A woman holds a child as they sit near lit candles in the sand in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People hold candles as they walk to the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People hold candles as they walk to the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People hold candles as they walk to the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
People hold candles as they walk to the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
An unidentified tourist places flowers at the scene of Friday's shooting attack in the coastal town of Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Residents of the coastal town of Sousse in Tunisia place flowers and messages during a gathering at the scene of Friday's shooting attack, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Men carry chairs at the entrance of the house of Saif Rezgui, a gunman who shot 39 tourists on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, in Gaafour, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Women pray near bouquets of flowers laid on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A police officer patrols the beach near the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
A police officer stands guard near the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Tourists pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the beach near the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Messages and flowers are placed at the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

"She wanted to get back out to go down to the beach. She kept saying, 'I need to know if he's dead or alive' and she kept trying to get out to go and see if he was alive."

The full drama of the massacre had yet to unfold, but Ms King knew something was very wrong.

"People were rushing into the hotel from the beach area so the hotel staff couldn't let the woman back out again for her own safety, and then at that point the hotel staff told us to go back to our own hotel rooms for our own security," she said.

"Our room was locked at that point, because our key had deactivated as it was past check-out time, so we went into a room a few doors up which belonged to another Irish couple that we had become friendly with.

"As soon as we went in complete panic broke out. There was a stampede of people up the corridor screaming 'he has a gun' and running, frantically banging on doors and pleading to be let into rooms for safety," she recalled. At this stage the terrified tourists didn't know whether there was one or more gunmen, or if any of them had made it into the hotel.

Read more: 1,000 armed police to patrol beaches used by tourists

"We locked ourselves into the room with a British couple and a Tunisian chambermaid, and we locked ourselves into the bathroom and stayed there for over an hour just being completely silent," she told the 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' show on RTÉ.

"We could hear people in the corridor and we didn't know who they were.

"Our belief was that it could be someone with guns, but after about an hour and a few phone calls from the chambermaid to reception we came out of the bathroom into the bedroom and turned on the TV and began to see reports," she explained.

"But most of the information we were getting was actually from Ireland. My children were getting stuff on the internet with their phones. We thought it might have been terrorist-related when we heard there had been an attack in France as well," she said.

Read more: 'This is an act of terrorism and racism' - Kenny on Tunisia

"There had been a huge gun battle outside the window, so we knew it was major. We were in complete shock to be honest," she added. Marian has since found out the British woman's husband survived his wounds.

Irish Independent

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