Felixstowe mum endured ‘absolutely horrific’ wait before teenage daughter said she was safe after Istanbul airport terrorist attack

Lucy and Sophie Earthroll. Photo: Stephanie Mackentyre.

Lucy and Sophie Earthroll. Photo: Stephanie Mackentyre. - Credit: Archant

A Felixstowe mum has spoken of the “absolutely horrible” moment she feared her teenage daughter might have been a victim of the Istanbul airport terrorist attack.

Medics and security members work at the entrance of the Ataturk Airport after explosions in Istanbul

Medics and security members work at the entrance of the Ataturk Airport after explosions in Istanbul. Photo: IHA via AP. - Credit: AP

Stephanie Mackentyre watched the news in horror on Tuesday night – knowing her daughter Sophie Earthroll was due to fly in to the airport at around that time to get a connecting flight to South Korea.

Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel.

Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel. - Credit: AP

Mrs Mackentyre, who was visiting her mother and two sisters, tried desperately to make contact with the 19-year-old, but there was no response. Eventually, her daughter picked up and said she was fine, but completely unaware of the suicide blast. Her plane had landed at Ataturk Airport shortly after the attack, but no-one was allowed off or told why.

Mrs Mackentyre said: “When I found out she was changing at Istanbul, I said ‘I wished you weren’t going there’. She said ‘Oh mum, everything will be fine’.

“I was watching the time and thinking she’ll be flying in to Turkey at about now. She was going to have a three-hour stopover there.

“Then I received a text message saying ‘have you seen the news?’ I switched on the television and of course there it all was.

“I was absolutely terrified. It was just absolutely horrible. It felt like the whole ground swept beneath me. I was so terrified for her. I got on the phone but couldn’t get hold of her. I messaged her and Facebooked her. People were calling me, but I said ‘no, I haven’t heard anything’.”

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For about 20 minutes – which Mrs Mackentyre said felt like 10 years – she was left in the dark.

“It was awful,” she said. “All of a sudden, I tried her number again and you get that long dial tone. At least that was a good sign. And just to hear her voice, I was so, so relieved.”

More than 36 people were killed and 147 wounded in the attack. Three suspected Islamic State (IS) radicals arrived in a taxi and detonated explosives after opening fire. There are no reports of UK casualties.

Sophie, a former Kesgrave High School pupil studying art in London, was travelling to South Korea with university friends for a 10-day holiday.

“She was completely shocked (when I told her), Mrs Mackentyre said. “But to start with she was annoyed because she had all these text messages from me.

“When I finally got hold of her, she said ‘for goodness sake, I know you’re worried about me but I’m only in Turkey. I’m fine’.

“I said ‘that’s not why I’m ringing. Have they not told you – there’s been a terrorist attack’.

“She said ‘where – somewhere in Turkey?’ I said ‘no, where you are, literally at that airport’.

“She went very, very quiet and her tone became very serious. She wanted details. I didn’t want to tell her everything because nobody knew on the plane. I said ‘you’re in a safe place but be prepared for a long wait. There has been a very nasty terrorist attack’.

“I stayed awake all last night. We were texting each other. She said all the front windows had been blown out. There was glass everywhere. The ceilings had all come down. You could see all the live wires hanging down. She said ‘It is just horrible here mum’. She said I can’t get hold of anybody to ask anything. She said there is no-one to ask.

“They were the wrong side of the airport and couldn’t buy anything, unless they bought a visa. They queued up from half past midnight until 3am for a visa, and then were told the visa desk was closed.

“They hadn’t had anything to eat or drink. They couldn’t even get a bottle of water.

“I said she must stay at the airport. That was the safest place. You will just have to hold tight until they get themselves sorted. I said you are very, very lucky.”

Mrs Mackentyre, a freelance media writer, said her mother and sisters “rallied around her” during those 20 minutes of waiting.

“They were making cups of tea, saying supportive things,” she said.

“When I heard she was okay and had to call other people to let them know, I didn’t have any strength, so they made the calls.”

Sophie was due to catch a delayed flight to Seoul, South Korea from Istanbul on Tuesday night.

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