Belfast Telegraph

Derry family's narrow escape as jihadists targeted Cambrils

By Leona O'Neill

A terminally-ill teenager from Londonderry and her family avoided the Cambrils terror attack by just minutes.

Alexandra Johnston (14) is suffering from Ewing's sarcoma. Her father Andre said they travelled to Cambrils for an opportunity to make precious memories together.

He said they felt very lucky to miss the attack, which claimed the life of a Spanish woman and took place after the Barcelona atrocity.

At around 1am on Friday five jihadists mowed three people down before smashing into a police car stationed at a checkpoints.

The terrorists came out of their vehicle brandishing knives, machetes and axes, but four of them were shot dead by police officers before they could embark on a murderous rampage.

A fifth attacker escaped and stabbed a pedestrian before he was shot by another officer.

Seventeen members of the Johnston family and friends from Derry had been in the Spanish coastal town on the night of the attack.

Alexandra was diagnosed in 2013 and was given just three months to live.

Four years and multiple treatments later, her family call her their "walking miracle".

Andre said: "We were in Cambrils for a family dinner. Some of the family were going home on Friday morning so there were 17 of us out for a meal.

"We walked along the promenade and noticed that they had concrete bollards up and there seemed to be a lot of police around.

"We walked around the marina and noticed that police had a checkpoint there.

"I don't know if they were expecting something after Barcelona. We never thought anything of it. It was nearly midnight when we were finished our meal and we walked around the marina again, just enjoying the warm night.

"We queued up in the promenade for an ice cream but then we saw buses going back to our hotel in Salou, so we decided to just get on one as some of the family had to get up early in the morning for the airport.

"Just as we arrived back at our hotel the news came through that Cambrils had been attacked after we left at exactly the same spot. It was terrifying.

"Whenever we came back to the apartment we saw it on the news, where we had been was right where they attacked.

"If we had waited for the 1am bus as originally planned we would have been there, all 17 of us, exactly where it happened. It was scary how close we were."

Andre said the attack marred the trip for Alexandra, who has just finished another round of chemotherapy, and the rest of the family.

"This was supposed to be a special family holiday for us," he explained.

"A woman back home had started a fundraising drive for Alexandra to send her on holiday. My wife just wanted a family holiday, what with the situation with our daughter.

"This was, for us, a holiday of a lifetime, a really special holiday to make memories with Alexandra, all of us together.

"We are here to have a special holiday and these scum are out to cause heartache to innocent people.

"It was scary the next day when we thought of what could happen. All of us were standing together and we had a couple of very young children with us, our grandson and niece. The next day it hit home what could have happened.

"We were just looking at the photo of us all on the bus, leaving Cambrils behind us. Little did we know what was about to happen. It could have been so different. It is so eerie, so surreal.

"We are afraid, naturally, but Alexandra wants to go back into Cambrils, so we are contemplating going back in for a visit. We were brought up with it back home in Derry and you just have to get on with it, unfortunately.

"We are just going to keep going. These so-called humans won't spoil our holiday. We live in a terrible world."

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