Sunday 16 December 2018

Irish holiday-makers in Tunisia barricaded the door of their hotel room during a terrorist attack, inquest hears

Inquest into the death of three Irish tourists killed in the attack

Victims Laurence and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, Co Westmeath
Victims Laurence and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, Co Westmeath

Louise Roseingrave

Irish holiday-makers in Tunisia barricaded the door of their hotel room during a terrorist attack as a gunman prowled the corridors outside, an inquest heard.

Raymond Hegarty and his family ran from the pool area as a gunman approached from the beach firing a kalashnikov as he moved towards the hotel.

Three Irish tourists were killed in the attack that claimed 38 lives at Port El Kantaoui, in Sousse, Tunisia on June 26 2015.

Laurence (56) and Martina Hayes (55) from Athlone, Co Westmeath and Lorna Carty (54) from Co Meath were shot dead in the attack. An inquest into their deaths at Dublin Coroner’s Court heard from a number of tourists staying at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel when the attack took place.

Witness Raymond Hegarty was staying with his family on a room on the third floor. He said they were "having the perfect week".

However he said he noticed the lack of security at the hotel. He was at the pool with his wife and two daughters when he heard shooting around 12.05pm.

“I had never heard gunfire but I knew there was something wrong. It was like sixth sense kicked in,” he said.

The gunman was approaching directly behind them as they rushed from the pool area into the hotel.

“I remember hearing the whizz of bullets and the thud of them hitting something.

"I heard an explosion and this seemed closer and more intense,” he said. Inside their hotel room, the family locked the door and pushed the bed up against it.

“We rushed in and barricaded the door. I took the mirror off the wall and we lay on the floor. We gathered our passports and money. We kept quiet. The gunman was still outside,” he said.

Later, towards the end of the 30 minute attack, he looked out the window and saw a body at the front of the hotel, Mr Hegarty told the court.

The inquest heard evidence from Mr and Mrs Hayes’ only daughter Sinead Hayes and from Declan Carty, whose wife Lorna was shot dead on the beach, along with a number of tourists on holiday in the Tunisian resort at the time of the attack.

The inquest is due to resume after lunch and finish later today.

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