Change of plan ended in bus tragedy

A North-East woman was killed by a terrorist bomb after a last- minute change to her holiday plans, her grieving parents said yesterday.

A North-East woman was killed by a terrorist bomb after a last- minute change to her holiday plans, her grieving parents said yesterday.

Helyn Bennett, 21, of South Street, Spennymoor, County Durham, died in last Saturday's attack on a tourist bus in Kusadasi, Turkey.

Her fiancé, Stephen Staples, 23, brother, aunt and uncle were injured.

Yesterday, her mother, Sharon Holden, 41, who missed the bomb blast because she was on a day trip, said she knew immediately that her family was involved when she first heard about the bombing from another tourist.

She said: "Call it mother's instinct, but all day I knew that something was up."

She paid tribute to her "beautiful, bubbly" daughter who she said was "so in love" with Mr Staples - who is still in hospital in Turkey and does not know his fiancée is dead.

The family had agreed to split up - one group visiting a Greek island, a 90-minute boat trip away, with the others going to a water park.

She spent the day with her husband, Tom, sister, Lynn Debbage, 53, and brother-in-law, Terry Debbage, and out of contact with her family.

Eventually Mr Holden, 53, rang his daughter in Britain and heard there were casualties on a bus heading for the beach.

Mr Holden believed the family was at the water park and was relieved, but his wife feared the worst.

She said: "They must have changed their plans and decided to go to the beach.

"The bomb blew up just after they got on."

Mr and Mrs Holden were unable to catch a ferry back to Turkey until much later in the day.

"I spent the whole day walking round in tears," Mrs Holden said.

"It was the worst six and a half hours of my life."

They were met by representatives from holiday firm Thomas Cook when they were back in Turkey and her worst fears were confirmed.

Miss Bennett was one of five dead, her brother, Adam Megoran, 16, suffered burns after being blown through a window and Mr Stables was badly injured.

Aunt Toni Punshon, 31, of Sherburn, Durham, suffered burns, as did her son, Sam, 14, and her partner, Michael Aspinall, who was also badly injured.

All the family group were thought to have been sitting close together when the bomb went off.

Mr Stables and Mr Aspinall are still in Turkey, not well enough to return to Britain.

The others are being treated at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Mr Holden said he did not think Mr Stables, 23, was strong enough to be told his fiancée, with whom he was about to buy a house, had been killed.

The family urged other holidaymakers not to be put off by the attack.

Mr Holden said: "You cannot let the terrorists win - don't stop going."

He said he could not think about the bombers, believed to be Kurdish separatists.

"I cannot believe there are people in this world who go out of their way to kill and injure innocent men, women and children for whatever reason.

"It is inhumane."

They also sent their condolences to the families of 17-year-old Tara Whelan, of Kilmeaden, County Waterford, and three Turkish people who were also killed.

Mr Holden said: "Our hearts go out to them as well. We know what they are going through."


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