COUNTY NEWS: Sussex men witness terrorist attack on Tunisian beach

Kevin French and Gary Woolnough in Tunisia SUS-150630-101451001
Kevin French and Gary Woolnough in Tunisia SUS-150630-101451001
  • Horsham men caught up in attack on beach
  • The pair have since returned home
  • Heartfelt thanks issued to Tunisian people and hotel staff

A Sussex man who witnessed the ‘terrifying’ moment a terrorist opened fire on holidaymakers on a Tunisian beach said it was ‘like being in a war zone’.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed at least 18 Britons in the attack in Sousse on Friday (June 26), while Horsham pair Kevin French and Gary Woolnough were in a nearby bar on the beach.

I have never been so frightened. All around us there were grenades going off

Kevin French

Neither Kevin or Gary was injured, and they returned home to Horsham on Saturday morning (June 27).

An emotional Kevin admitted he ‘thought that was it’ during the attack, and expressed his heartfelt thanks to the ‘amazing’ people of Sousse for their response to the incident.

He said: “I can’t get my head around what has happened. It was like being in a war zone but I had no machine gun - it was pandemonium.

“Thank God, we have come home safe to our beautiful town, and our friends have been so good to us here, but I thought that was it.

“I am dazed and haven’t been able to sleep. Every time I close my eyes it replays.”

The British death toll is expected to rise to more than 30 once the identification of victims is completed.

Kevin described the shocking scene as holidaymakers including he and Gary fled the beach towards the Royal Kenz Hotel in the wake of the incident.

He explained that he was talking to Colin, a man in his 70s, in the beach bar when Rezgui began shooting tourists.

He said: “All of a sudden I heard this bang, the most almighty bang - I thought it was fireworks.

“I saw this man and there were people - whether they were dead or just fell to the ground, I don’t know.

“Then it was just like ‘pop pop, pop pop’ and smoke coming out of it. I said to Gary and Colin, ‘we have got a problem here’, and Gary just stared in disbelief at what was unfolding.”

Kevin watched as tourists ran from the beach into the bar and hid in the toilets.

He, Gary and Colin joined other holidaymakers in retreating to the Royal Kenz, a walk of around a quarter of a mile, Kevin said.

He added that there was no way of knowing how many terrorists were involved in the attack.

He said: “He was running across the beach towards the right. He was coming our way and if he came into the beach bar he is going to have about 70 or 80 people, and it will be ‘bang, bang, bang’.

“I have never been so frightened. All around us there were grenades going off and there was gunfire all around.”

After reaching the hotel, Kevin and Gary invited Colin, his wife Ruth, and a younger couple to their room, which was on a higher floor - ‘my priority was to do what I can to make people safe as best as I could’.

The six sat in the room listening to the gunfire, and feared for their lives after hearing that Rezgui had stormed the hotel.

They considered barricading themselves in the bathroom, but the attacker soon left the hotel.

Shortly after, he was shot dead by police.

Kevin visited the resort three times last year and said the staff, some of whom he knew from previous visits, were ‘amazing’.

He also stressed his guilt at having to leave the country and local people behind.

He said: “The staff were running down to the beach and I said ‘don’t go, you are going to get shot’. One of them turned around and said it is their job and they have to go.

“I just want to give something back to the Tunisian people, they were so good. I felt so guilty for leaving, but our prime concern was our safety.

“The ironic thing is that before I left people said be careful, and I said you have got more chance of being shot in a high street in the UK.”

Following the incident, meetings were held at the hotel where tourists were ensured that the hotel was in lockdown and that they were safe.

Kevin said he and Gary have been overwhelmed with support from friends since their return to Horsham.

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