THE Irish couple killed in the Tunisian massacre had been on the beach waiting for a bus to take them to the airport for their flight home.
Larry and Martina Hayes – along with 36 other people, including Irishwoman Lorna Carty – were gunned down in cold blood by lone-wolf terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui.
The Hayes’ devastated family have revealed that they were murdered just minutes before they were due to catch their bus to the airport.
Larry (56), a CIE bus inspector, and Martina (55) a housewife, were on a week-long holiday in the coastal town of Sousse.
The couple – from Athlone in Co Westmeath – had been married for 32 years and it was the third time they had holidayed in the area.
The shooting started on the beach outside the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, where the couple were staying.
Concern about their whereabouts was first raised at around 4pm on Friday, when they were due to return from Tunisia.
However, it became clear on Saturday night they were among 38 holiday-makers who were murdered in the resort.
Martina’s brother Billy Kelly said that the family was trying to come to terms with it.
“I feel bitter. Very, very bitter. These were good and innocent people, gunned down by goddam terrorists,” he said.
“They are evil, evil rats.”
“To be gunned down by terrorists. What did they do to deserve that? What did any of those people do?
“To just open fire like that on a beach. You wouldn’t gun down dogs like that.
“Martina was the youngest of 11. She was the baby and now she has been taken from us.
Larry’s brother, Michael, said that the couple had travelled to the country several times.
“He was an ordinary family man, but well-liked by everybody. They had travelled to Tunisia a number of times, and enjoyed everything about the country,” said Larry.
Their only daughter, Sinead (30), had phoned her parents less than 24 hours before the killing to find out how they were enjoying their holiday, he added.
“Both were in great form, and were having a great time,” said Michael.
He said some family members were unaware the couple were back at one of their favourite holiday destinations, until they were given the devastating news of their deaths on Saturday.
“The last time I spoke to Larry was a few weeks ago, when I met him on the street.
“We spoke very briefly. He was in good form, but he actually didn’t say a word about their upcoming break.
“They were due to fly back to Ireland on Friday night – in all likelihood on the same flight as the other Irish lady who was killed. News started filtering through late on Friday and early on Saturday. As the day went on it became clear to us what had happened.
“At first Larry and Martina were unaccounted for – but then the awful news of what had happened to them was confirmed.
“It’s still unclear, but we believe they were walking near the beach waiting for their airport transfer. I don’t know if they received any medical attention at the scene after they were shot.
“Larry spent all his life in Athlone and was well liked by everybody. It’s such a terrible tragedy.”
Mr Hayes, a Bus Eireann schools transport inspector, had worked for 20 years with the company.
Martina, whose maiden name is Kelly, is originally from Carrick, Kiltoom, Co Roscommon.
A Dublin couple Anthony and Betty Tunstead, who have spoken of how a plan to change hotels meant that they weren’t on the beach when the shooting began.
People hold candles as they walk to the beach of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where a gunman had carried out an attack, in Sousse, Tunisia, June 28, 2015
Betty said Martina was “lovely” and that they were “great together”.
They only learned that the couple had died yesterday.
“We can’t come to terms with it,” said Betty.
Michael Hayes said the family’s attention had now turned to getting the couple’s remains home as soon as possible.
“We don’t know the exact details as of now, but the Department of Foreign Affairs are trying to expedite the process.
“We want them home as soon as possible.
“Apart from a bit of travel, one of their main interests was caring for their little dog, which brought them a lot of happiness.”
He said the family had been struggling with the tragedy.
“We’re dealing with it the best way we can. Both sides of the family are trying to get through this whole nightmare. It’s very tough for everyone.”
He expressed special praise for the Gardai and Department of Foreign Affairs for the “professional manner” in which they kept the family abreast of developments in the country.
“I would also like to thank Sinead’s friend, Irene, for all her support.”
Willie Collins, a close friend and former work colleague at Bus Eireann, paid special tribute to Larry and his wife.
“You couldn’t ask for a nicer friend or colleague. I know that’s something that’s often said, but it couldn’t be more true.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan urged anyone from Ireland intending to travel to Tunisia to exercise “extreme caution”.
He said there was “no reason to believe” any other Irish citizens were seriously injured in the massacre, and he had been in contact with Irish diplomatic staff on the ground in Tunis.
In a statement, Bus Eireann extended its sympathies and condolences to Larry’s family and friends, and said he was highly regarded on both a personal and professional level by all his colleagues.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the couple’s daughter at this difficult time, and all the extended family,” it added.
Hundreds of armed police are now patrolling Tunisia’s beach resorts on Sunday and the government said it would deploy hundreds more in the wake of the terror attack.
At least 15 Britons were among the dead and wounded along with German and Belgian nationals. The Tunisian health ministry said at least 40 people were wounded.