Woman’s chilling call after bombing

 

AN Aussie couple had their dream holiday turn into a nightmare when their Sri Lankan hotel was bombed during the Easter Sunday attacks that claimed 359 lives.

Sophie Heynes-Bishop and her boyfriend Patrick Ritchie had only been in the country's capital of Colombo for just over a day when the attack took place.

Ms Heynes-Bishop was eating breakfast at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel where they were staying when the fifth round of planned bombs detonated.

"The first split-second thought was that there was a blackout," she told 7 News.

After the explosion, Ms Heynes-Bishop found herself hiding under her table, waiting for another bomb or gunmen to enter the room.

Ms Heynes-Bishop thought she was never going to see her boyfriend or family again. Picture: 7 News
Ms Heynes-Bishop thought she was never going to see her boyfriend or family again. Picture: 7 News

"I was screaming and crying … there were just people everywhere," she said.

Her boyfriend was asleep in their hotel room at the time, and the Adelaide woman assumed he was dead.

Believing these could be her final moments, Ms Heynes-Bishop called her mum to say goodbye.

"I called my mum and I just said, 'I love you, and I'm going to die'," she said.

Ms Heynes-Bishop recalled seeing blood everywhere and bodies being carried out of the hotel in front of her.

Staff members helped her make her way through the carnage to safety.

She was later reunited with Mr Ritchie who had also survived the blast.

The couple had only been in Sri Lanka for just over a day when the attack occurred. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
The couple had only been in Sri Lanka for just over a day when the attack occurred. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

The couple cut their holiday short and returned to Australia, with Ms Heynes-Bishop telling 7 News the locals were constantly apologising to them over the event.

"They don't have to be sorry, it's not their fault that this happened," she said.

"They're such beautiful people … we definitely want to go back."

Most of those killed and wounded were Sri Lankans, although 38 foreigners were also killed, including Australian mother Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter Alexendria.

Others included British, US, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The Sri Lankan Government has imposed emergency rule and an overnight curfew. It has also blocked online messaging services to stop the spread of inflammatory rumours it fears could incite communal clashes.

Details have begun to emerge of a band of nine, well-educated suicide bombers, including a woman, from well-to-do families.

A screen grab of Islamic State claiming responsibility for the deadly attacks.
A screen grab of Islamic State claiming responsibility for the deadly attacks.

"If you look at the scale of the attacks, the level of co-ordination, the sophistication of them, it's not implausible to think there are foreign linkages," the US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Alaina Teplitz, told reporters in Colombo.

She said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US military were supporting the investigation.

Sri Lanka's Junior Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene conceded there had been a significant intelligence failure before the attacks, with reports of warnings of strikes not acted on and feuds at the highest levels of government.

Sri Lanka's president has asked for the resignations of the Defence Secretary and national police chief, a dramatic internal shake-up after security forces shrugged off intelligence reports warning of possible attacks.

President Maithripala Sirisena said during a televised speech he planned to change the head of the defence forces within 24 hours.


Look out for ticks

Look out for ticks

Lismore City Council rangers encourage pet owners to be vigilant

The fun way to be fit and frugal

The fun way to be fit and frugal

Jumping on your bike is a cure for so many ills.

Small gardeners have large hearts

Small gardeners have large hearts

Even a small garden can have a massive impact