A YOUNG family from Dundalk had a lucky escape when the car bomb that exploded in Oslo killing seven people shattered their hotel door.
Niamh Marron from Haggardstown told The Dundalk Democrat that she had been walking around the area where the blast occurred just 15 minutes before the bomb detonated.
The 26-year-old had travelled to Norway’s capital city on Thursday, July 21 for a short break with her husband, Liam, and their 10 and a half month old son, Ohran.
The family had booked into The Comfort Hotel Express, which stands just metres from the targeted offices of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and a number of other official buildings.
The following afternoon, after a long day of sightseeing, Niamh and Liam made a snap decision to go to TGI Friday’s on Oslo’s main thoroughfare instead of returning to their hotel.
“We had been walking around that area and then suddenly we decided that we wouldn’t stay any more. We were hungry so we decided to get something to eat nearby,” said Niamh.
“We had just ordered when we heard a huge bang. It was so loud it sounded as though it had come from inside the building. We thought something must have happened in the kitchen.
“A minute later a staff member made an announcement and everyone got up and left. We still didn’t know what had happened as the announcement was made in Norweigan.
“We sat there confused and then the waiter said ‘Bomb!’ We got up and left but didn’t think too much of it. We thought it might have been a hoax like at home.
“It was only when we got out onto the street and saw all the smoke billowing and the debris that we realised what had happened.”
Niamh added: “We started walking back towards our hotel but we were overcome by black smoke. We couldn’t breathe so we walked away from it towards City Hall.
“A couple of hours later we thought that the situation might have calmed down so we tried to get to our hotel again but everywhere was cordoned off.
“We walked around for two hours trying to find a way to the hotel. When we eventually got there we saw that the door of the hotel had been blown off.”
A policeman standing guard at the hotel entrance told Niamh and Liam that the hotel had been evacuated after the explosion and that no-one was allowed inside.
“Everything we had was in the room. Everything for the baby, clothes, food, money and passports were all in the hotel,” she said.
“Luckily, a guy from Tipperary who has an Uncle in Dundalk was standing nearby and he recognised us from the plane on the way over. He gave us the number of the Irish embassy in Oslo.
“The Irish embassy told us everyone who had been staying at our hotel was being put up by another hotel, so we stayed there for the rest of the trip.”
Meanwhile, Niamh’s worried brother, Rodney, had an anxious wait to make contact with her after news of the attack broke in Ireland.
“The telephone lines were down for around 40 minutes due to the pressure on the networks so I couldn’t get through to her. It was a huge relief when Niamh texted to say they were all okay,” he said.
When Niamh’s mother rang her a few hours later to tell her about the mass shootings on a nearby island, Niamh was shocked.
“We hadn’t heard anything as we were busy dealing with the aftermath of the bomb. When we turned on the news and saw what had happened we couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Niamh said that the day after the twin terror attack residents and tourists were walking around in a daze, while others were in floods of tears.
“There was a sense of panic too. People didn’t know what was going on and there was a fear that there might be another attack. People just didn’t know what to expect.”
Niamh, Liam and Ohran returned to Dundalk yesterday (Monday, July 25) and are relieved to finally be back home.
“Thankfully we did manage to get our things from the hotel we originally were staying at. The staff at the Irish embassy and at the hotel were brilliant,” she said.
“But it was very hard to sleep so we are exhausted. I thought we would never get home. It was the trip from hell.”