herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Tunisia massacre: 'It's nothing short of a miracle that we escaped alive'

A DUBLIN couple caught up in the Tunisia terror attack believe a plan to change hotels saved their lives.

Anthony and Betty Tunstead, from Ballymun, said it was nothing short of a miracle they weren't killed.

"Every day we sat on the same sun beds that were kept for us, but on Friday we said there was no point as we were changing hotels - other than that he would have massacred us," Betty told the Herald.

"Or if we had been down checking out on time we would have been killed, too."

The couple had been holidaying with Betty's sister, Mary, and her husband, Dennis.

Anthony was the first of their party of four to realise what was happening.

READ MORE: Tunisian massacre: Irish couple shot as they waited for airport bus

"There were a few shots first and then - all of a sudden - I heard the tat-tat-tat-tat of a machine gun."

From the second floor landing he saw Seifeddine Rezgui, the 24-year-old fanatic behind the murderous rampage.

READ MORE: Tunisia launches manhunt for accomplices of killer student

"I wasn't 30 yards from him. He just came from nowhere and jumped up onto the marble parapet in the lobby.

"I was thinking afterwards that if had seen me first, I was dead. He would have sliced me in two.

"That was an act of God in itself that he didn't see me. He was roaring and shouting at the top of his head and letting the gun go off ... I was terrified to move," Anthony said.

READ MORE: Irish holidaymakers don't like being told that they can't go somewhere, says expert

"I had visions that when I was running back to the room I was going to meet another attacker."

The couple spent some 90 minutes trapped in their bedroom along with Mary and Dennis.

As they listened to the sounds of the rampage, they believed that there was a group of gunmen roaming their hotel.

They also heard the explosion - believed to be a grenade - on their floor that killed English woman Carly Lovett (24).

Betty later comforted Carly's distraught fiance.

"He just kept screaming: 'Tell me where she is'. It was harrowing," Betty said.

Ms Tunstead said that after the attack people in the hotel lobby were struggling to take absorb what was happening.

"People weren't shouting or screaming, people were totally dazed."

friends

During the holiday Betty and Anthony made friends with Westmeath couple Larry and Martina Hayes, who were murdered on the beach.

They had breakfast with them on Friday morning.

After the attack the couple scoured the hotel for Larry and Martina, all the time fearing the worst.

They also saw the bloodied spot where the gunman had been shot by police.

The Tunsteads returned to Dublin on the first flight out of Tunis on Friday night. They only learned that their friends had died yesterday.

"We can't believe it. We can't come to terms with it," said Betty.

"Everybody thought their friends were going to be found safe and that they were hiding in cupboards or somewhere - it was probably what kept us sane," she added.

Alive

"Larry was the type of person that if he had been alive, he would have been running around everywhere, helping everyone," Betty said.

"Everybody loved Larry. He was just gregarious, he was very, very funny. He was a really great man.

"Martina was lovely. They were great together, she just laughed at everything he said.

"She was really terrific," Betty added.

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