Monday 20 November 2017

'It's so senseless, stupid and tragic' - Irish mother locked herself in bathroom with family when 'gun battle' began

Louise Kelly & Patricia Murphy

An Irish mother-of-two has revealed the terrifying ordeal her family went through as a gunman opened fire at the beach resort in Tunisia where they were staying.

Meath woman Marion was enjoying that last day of a "faultless week" with her two teenage children and her partner when "the whole thing kicked off".

“We were walking down the corridor and we came to a lobby area and people were gathering by a window and we asked what had happened. They said apparently a man has been shot," she told RTE's Marian Finucane show this morning.

When the family reached the reception area of the hotel, a British woman ran into the foyer "screaming that her husband was lying in a pool of blood on a sun lounger".

“She was running around frantically screaming asking if someone could tell her if he was alive or dead...The hotel staff told everybody to go back to their rooms as a security precaution," Marion told presenter Brendan O'Connor.

Read more: ISIS release picture of alleged gunman responsible for Tunisia beach massacre

Lorna Carty, from Co Meath, who was killed in the terrorist attack on Sousse, Tunisia, where she was on holiday
Lorna Carty, from Co Meath, who was killed in the terrorist attack on Sousse, Tunisia, where she was on holiday

When the family returned to their rooms, the hotel room doors had been deactivated as it was past midday on their final day. While Marion and her daughter entered the room of another Irish couple [Pat and Annette], her husband and son went to get the key deactivated.

“We were there for a couple of minutes. All hell broke loose. There were people running down the corridors shouting ‘He’s got a gun’.

"This woman came to our door and was shaking and speaking in Arabic and we had no idea what she was saying so we pulled her in and closed the door.

"We had people pounding on the door to let them in so we did. When I opened the door I saw my son, who had run past the room I was in and I grabbed him and pulled him in," she said.  

Tunisia map
Tunisia map

Marion's son had initially lost sight of her partner but they were later reunited as he had gotten their own room card activated and was staying there.

"Pat said "get into the bathroom it’s the safest place to be" and locked ourselves in there. There were footsteps in the corridors and all languages being shouted. There were a lot of men shouting," she said in the interview.

"We didn’t know if they were going to come into the rooms, and there was a lot of gunfire. We stayed in the bathroom for over an hour not speaking in case they heard us."

After the Tunisian lady opened the bathroom door, the group of them went out as far as the bedroom.

"We sat in the bedroom for another hour and a half and we turned on the TV at that stage. People were starting to filter out and I went back to our room, and got my partner and pulled him into the room we were in," said Marion.

When the family finally plucked up the courage to go down to reception, the travel agent representative got in contact and said they would try to get them out of the country that evening.

Read more: Day of bloodshed leaves more than 60 dead and stokes fears of jihadists

"We had no idea what was happening... a bus pulled up that evening and we just chucked everything into it  bags and all and went," she said.

Sunway MD Tanya also spoke on the show and offered her "sincere condolences" to all the Irish families affected by the terrifying incident, especially that of Lorna Carty who was tragically killed.

Sky News correspondent Nick Martin also spoke from a hospital in Sousse, Tunisia and said he has "spent the morning talking to the British holidaymakers who were caught up in the attack".

"We understand that eight British nationals are now confirmed dead but we expect those figures to rise in the days to come," he said.

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