Barcelona attack: NI woman on 'mind-altering' experience

  • Published
candles and other tributes left at the scene of the van attack in BarcelonaImage source, AFP

A County Londonderry woman has told of the moment a van ploughed into crowds in Barcelona, yards from where she was sitting outside a bar with her husband.

Shari and Danny Butcher are on holiday in the Spanish city and were among those who fled the scene of Wednesday's attack on Las Ramblas.

Members of an Irish family are among those who were injured.

"This is mind-altering for me - I can't wait to get home," Mrs Butcher told BBC Radio Foyle.

Image source, Shari Butcher
Image caption,
Shari and Danny Butcher had spent part of their day in the popular Las Ramblas area

Mrs Butcher, from Limavady, said she and her husband were having a drink when they heard a bang.

"Then people started to scream and run towards us, the police were running and blowing whistles," she said.

"When we heard another loud bang Danny stood up and looked across and saw a couple of people lying on the pavement.

"I got up and ran - everybody was panicking and screaming.

"Danny shouted after me: 'Don't panic.'"

She said she slipped and "had a bit of a panic attack".

"At this point we still didn't know what had happened - I just visualised the London attack.

"It was awful - we could have been killed.

"People from all over the world were there enjoying a holiday."

Sharon and Martin Kane, from west Belfast, were on their honeymoon in Barcelona when the attack happened.

Image source, Martin and Sharon Kane
Image caption,
Sharon and Martin Kane took cover in a nearby hotel

Mr Kane said they were asked to get off the bus they were travelling on.

"Before we knew it everybody started rushing," he said.

"We saw a girl fall and smash her head off the ground and everybody tried to get on the bus panicking.

"Everybody was falling all over themselves, people crying and shouting."

The couple then took cover in a nearby hotel.

"It was just like back to the 1970s and 1980s in Belfast when I was a child, the same things happening - a bomb going off in the city centre," Mr Kane said.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
People gathered in Barcelona on Friday to leave tributes to those killed in the attack

Husband and wife Norman and Pederlita Putot, who are from the Philippines but are Irish citizens, were in the city with their Irish-born children, Nathaniel and Pearl.

Mr Putot and his son are among the injured and are still in hospital in Barcelona, while Mrs Putot and her daughter escaped unhurt.

The five-year-old boy has a broken femur and his father has knee injuries.

The so-called Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, and Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said it was a "jihadist attack".

In a linked incident, five suspected terrorists were killed by police in the Spanish seaside resort of Cambrils.

Media caption,

Footage shows police surrounding a white van moments after the attack

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said it was a "miracle" that more Irish people were not hurt in the Barcelona attack.

He said Spain is the main holiday destination for Irish people and the connections between the countries "are really, really strong".

"Nearly two million Irish people this year will travel to Spain on their holidays," said Mr Coveney.

"You can safely say that probably over 300,000 Irish people are in Spain today.

"It's a miracle that more Irish people weren't involved, given that there are so many Irish people in Spain, Barcelona and Cambrils at this time of year."

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Las Ramblas was packed with tourists visiting its market stalls, bars and restaurants

The UK's Foreign Office has said a "small number" of Britons were hurt and it is investigating reports that a child with British nationality went missing during the attack.

Irish citizens are being advised to follow the advice of local authorities.

Anyone with concerns for the safety of people in Barcelona can contact the consular assistance team in the department on 01-4082000 or the Irish embassy in Madrid on +34 914364093.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has issued safety advice for people at home and abroad in the event of a weapons attack.

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said the intention was to increase "public awareness and vigilance, and ensuring our residents know what action to take in the unlikely event of an attack".

Flights to the city are unaffected.

A book of condolence for the victims of the attacks has opened at Belfast City Hall.