Saturday 25 November 2017

'I thought my cousin was dead, I was calling her ... it was like a bloodbath' - Irishwoman in horror Barcelona crash

Grace Linton in a neck brace
Grace Linton in a neck brace

A holidaymaker from Co Down injured in a bus crash in Barcelona last week has said she thought her cousin had been killed, and has spoken of the horrifying moment the coach full of passengers started to roll.

Grace Linton (25) said she feared she had been paralysed in the accident, and that she and her cousin broke down in tears of relief when they finally got home.

Grace Linton with cousin Joanne Magee
Grace Linton with cousin Joanne Magee

Grace suffered multiple injuries in the crash, including a shard of metal through her foot, shards of glass in her leg, torn ligaments, sprained ankles, a swollen hip and whiplash.

Her cousin, Joanne Magee (36), from Fermanagh, sustained extensive bruising to her legs, and pain in her back and neck.

Grace Linton is recovering from her injuries
Grace Linton is recovering from her injuries

Joanne said she has been unable to sleep since the "bloodbath" of the incident and vowed never to go on holiday again.

Miraculously, none of the 23 passengers and driver on board lost their lives. Local officials said three of the casualties were seriously injured, six suffered less serious injuries and 15 were treated for minor injuries.

The crash scene
The crash scene

The tour party was making its way to Barcelona's El Prat airport from the Costa Brava resort of Lloret de Mar at around 3am on Wednesday when the crash happened.

"There was a bad thunder and lightning storm that night, the rain was coming down very badly," said Grace.

"I was about to drift off and all of a sudden I felt the bus begin to slide. It slid a couple of times, nearly like a snake would do, and hit an embankment and rolled a couple of times.

"I don't know if there was seatbelts on the bus, but nobody had them on. A woman fell on top of me and that's why I was trapped, I couldn't move my legs.

"She was lifeless. No one died but when I last saw her she was very limp and had shallow breathing - it's something I'll never forget," she recalled.

Grace said she feared the worst had happened to Joanne.

"For about three to five seconds it just went quiet. It was like a real dead silence and then all of a sudden everybody started screaming," she said.

"I actually thought my cousin was dead, I was shouting her name and I couldn't hear her. I didn't know where she was, everything was dark.

"Some metal went through my foot which they had to be taken out in the hospital. I would rather have broken two of my arms, it was so sore."

She continued: "There was an English man beside us, half his ear was hanging off. He was in the hospital ward beside us and it was terrible. His wife had to go into intensive care and he couldn't even go in and see her."

Joanne said she couldn't sleep after the crash, as it had left her traumatised.

"It's very hard to sleep at night, all you can imagine is those people screaming on the bus. It was like a bloodbath in there," she recalled. "I've had to go off work for two weeks for stress - I had a traumatic car accident years ago which triggered panic attacks.

"My whole body is black and blue. I'll make a full recovery but it's the mental side that's the worst."

Recalling the crash, she continued: "We were coming up to the corner and I just felt the back end of the bus go. I grabbed on to the seat and held on. It went over the verge and I felt it tumble, I would say about four times, while I was holding on. The force dropped me to the ground.

"Everyone on the bus was screaming. All I was thinking about was my cousin because she was sleeping at the time. I had to crawl over bodies to find her.

"My cousin thought she was paralysed because she was wedged under what I thought was a dead body.

"Another woman was sitting face down and her body was shaking. Another person was bleeding from his arm, he had that much blood that he looked like a burst artery. Thank God there was no children on the bus. The emergency services were amazing, the front windows had to be kicked out for us to be released and the firemen helped us off.

"While we were waiting to be rescued I thought, 'Are we going to die here? Will the bus blow up?' If I didn't have a heart attack then I never will.

"Grace thought that I was dead. It was very hard to explain to my mother on the phone because I was shaking and that scared. I'm going to make a donation to that hospital (in Barcelona), the care they gave there was second to none."

On Thursday morning the cousins, who had not slept for two days, made an emotional return to Belfast.

"To be honest I've never cried. But as soon as they opened that plane door and I saw Belfast I cried so much," said Grace.

Joanne added: "While I was coming off that plane, the two of us cried going down the runway with relief. I will never go on holiday again."

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