A Wigan man has spoken of the horrifying moment he and his girlfriend became caught up in the deadly terrorist attack on Brussels Airport.
Christopher Parkinson and Rebecca Wilson, from Orrell, were returning from a dream holiday in New York and transferring flights in the Belgian capital when the atrocity happened on Monday.
They brought a shuttle bus round and that was when we saw the devastation at the front of the airport, with all the windows blown out. We saw people injuredChristopher Parkinson
Christopher today spoke about the couple’s experiences after he and Rebecca finally returned to the borough on Thursday evening following a four-day ordeal.
They joined thousands of panicking and terrified travellers on the Zavantem airport’s runway before being taken to Red Cross accommodation for two days and finally managed to get home after being taken to Amsterdam to get a flight.
Christopher, 31, said: “We were just in the airport when the explosions went off. We were pretty near to it but we had just been through security so if it had happened about 10 minutes earlier we would have been really close. I was asleep when it happened so didn’t hear it. At first Rebecca thought it was the noise of a plane but then we realised they were bombs.
“We had to evacuate and ended up on the runway. People were crying and didn’t know what was happening. A lot of people had just left all their belongings and ran.
“They brought a shuttle bus round and that was when we saw the devastation at the front of the airport, with all the windows blown out. We saw people injured.”
Christopher and Rebecca were initially taken to a warehouse for six hours before being escorted by the Belgian police to a sports hall which had been turned into makeshift accommodation run by the Red Cross.
They eventually flew back to Britain from Amsterdam on Thursday having been put up in the Dutch capital overnight, still wearing the same clothes from Monday.
Christopher said: “In the warehouse it was like a Third World country. Everyone was trying to get food and putting their hands in the air to get blankets. We were camping out on the floor and there were so many people, it was unreal.
“We were going to go to an Army camp but it was full so we went to a sports hall instead. We were escorted through town by police bikes.
“We spent pretty much all of one day around a vending machine charging our phones, and we also made a little diary and put lots of notes in there.
“At the airport everybody was crying and upset because people realised they were losing their colleagues where they checked in. Even some of the police were crying when they were evacuating people.
“At the sports hall everybody was calm and friendly and helping each other out, sharing food and cigarettes and blankets.”
Having struggled to get information Christopher said it was extremely emotional to get home and see the news coverage showing the full horror of the atrocity.
The two bombs at the airport were followed an hour later by a devastating explosion on a Metro train, with the entire attack killing 34 people and injuring 300.
Despite the nightmare ending to the couple’s first holiday together Christopher says they will not be put off venturing abroad again.
He said: “Rebecca was crying all the way home and when we saw the news it hit home. It’s been quite emotional watching it all back because we didn’t really know the total extent of what had happened when we were there.
“It’s just mad and it’s not really sunk in at all. It’s not going to stop us going on holiday again, but New York seems a distant memory now.”