Derry family narrowly avoid terrorist attack

Alexandra Johnston and her family pictured in Cambrils on the night of the incident.
Alexandra Johnston and her family pictured in Cambrils on the night of the incident.

The father of a well-known Derry girl who is bravely battling cancer, has spoken of how his family narrowly avoided being caught up in a terrorist attack in Spain.

Andre Johnston and his daughter Alexandra, who was diagnosed with the rare Ewing Sarcoma four years ago, were along with 15 other relatives and friends in Cambrils on Thursday night in the same location where, one hour later, a terrorist attack took place.

Andre Johnston with his daughter Alexandra.

Andre Johnston with his daughter Alexandra.

Fortunately, a spur of the moment decision saw the family catching a bus back to Salou one hour before the attack.

Andre said the family was shaken by what had occurred but was determined not to let it ruin their holiday.

Speaking from Salou yesterday, Mr. Johnston said: “We were a bit shaken up when we found out. There were 17 of us in Cambrils and 12 were returning home the next day, so we all went out for a meal together before some headed home. It is only four or five miles from Salou and we just took a notion to go in and get something to eat.

“When we arrived we could see the police presence around the place, but we thought it was to do with the Barcelona attack, which had happened earlier.

The family pictured departing on the earlier bus, a decision which may have saved their lives.

The family pictured departing on the earlier bus, a decision which may have saved their lives.

“We tried to get a table but there was such a big group of us so we were told to come back to the restaurant later and that’s why we didn’t leave there until 11.30 p.m. to 11.45 p.m.

“We were then queuing for ice cream and we saw two buses with their lights flashing, one for Salou. We were in that spot were it all happened.”

The family decided that as they would have to wait an hour for the next bus, to abandon the queue and get ice-cream back in Salou- a decision that may well have saved their lives as the next bus was scheduled for 1.00 am - the same time the terrorist attack took place.

At 1.00 am, a car ploughed into pedestrians along the seafront, injuring several people. It overturned while trying to mount a pavement and four of the gang were shot dead by police, while the fifth escaped and stabbed a woman in her 60s in the neck. The woman later died and several others were injured before the guy was shot. The next day it really hit home to us what had happened.”

Andre added that a planned sight-seeing trip to Barcelona 60 miles away had been cancelled due to the events in that city.

But he said the family, and particularly Alexandra, are considering heading back to Cambrils before returning to Derry on Friday. “Alexandra is looking to go back in again to a shoe shop she found there.When you look at it, we have brought up with it back home. You have to try and get on with it.

Commenting on those behind the attack, he said: “We are celebrating a family holiday for Alexandra who is fighting a terrible disease and for these people to go out and take people’s lives is disgusting.”