Tuesday 27 September 2016

'When I heard the machine gun, I just grabbed my sons and we ran'

Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30

An Irish mother of three has spoken of her terror when she and her children ran for cover as gunfire rang out in one of the hotels in Tunisia.

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Elizabeth O'Brien, a Dublin-based nurse, was on the beach with sons Jordan (13) and Spencer (11) when she heard what sounded like "firecrackers" about 300m away.

Police officers surround a man suspected of being involved in the attack on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia
Police officers surround a man suspected of being involved in the attack on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia

But she quickly realised it was a machine gun and began frantically waving at her two children to get out of the water.

"We were on the beach. My sons were in the sea, and I had just got out of the water," she said.

Tourists react at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse. Photo: Getty
Tourists react at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse. Photo: Getty

"I just ran to my children, and grabbed our things, as I was running towards the hotel.

"I kept trying to tell Russian and Hungarian tourists to run but they didn't understand what I was saying, and looked at me like I had 10 heads. I was using my hand as a gun, trying to explain to them, and shouting 'They're shooting, they're shooting, run'.

Read more: Irish mum among dozens gunned down in beach massacre

"The waiters and the security on the beach started saying 'run, run, run', and we just ran to our room, which is like a little bungalow."

Speaking to the Irish Independent, she said the family were "trapped" in their hotel room, where she called RTÉ to contact her husband Jack. "I tried calling my husband in Dublin but couldn't get through. I kept imaging the horror taking place outside the hotel," she added.

Elizabeth said she booked the next flight out of the country, and planned to arrive back on Irish soil late last night.

Tunisia map
Tunisia map

"I'm trying to hold myself together, because of my children," she added.

Tomás Ó Ríordáin, who was also in the resort with his family, thought the sound of gunshots was a "jetski backfiring".

Tomás, from Cúil Aodha in Cork but now living in the UK, was with his wife Treasa and one of their daughters Amy by the pool at their hotel, El Mouradi Palm Marina, when the attack happened. The hotel is next to the building where the gun attack took place.

Read more: Irish tourists fly to Tunisia hours after attack

In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach.
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach.
Police officers surround a man suspected of being involved in the attack on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia

"We heard 10 or 15 shots in very quick succession. Then everyone started running in from the beach towards the hotel," he told Raidió na Gaeltachta.

"They told us that the attacker came down the street, and directly into the hotel. He was dressed all in black, and came in firing all about him.

"We didn't see anything, but we heard everything. It was all over three or four minutes after it started.

"We were worried about our two daughters, Claire and Siobhán, who were at the beach. But we just had to wait and see if they came back.

"When they returned, we went straight up to the room and closed the windows and the curtains, because they thought at that time that there was a second attacker with a gun.

"They didn't know if somebody else 'was on the loose'," he said.

Irish Independent

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