Brussels attacks: Local students return home after ordeal

Chantelle Clarke. INNT 13-801CON
Chantelle Clarke. INNT 13-801CON

Two Newtownabbey teenagers who were caught up in the Brussels terrorist attacks yesterday (Tuesday), have arrived home after the traumatic ordeal.

Chantelle Clarke from Ballyclare and Matthew Muldoon from Mallusk were in Belgium as part of a youth group trip organised by the Education Authority.

The group had been in the country since Saturday, March 19 and were set to fly home from the international airport in Brussels yesterday.

The group of 17 young people and Education Authority officers arrived at the airport as the carnage of the terrorist bomb attacks was unfolding.

Speaking to the Times, Chantelle described the moment she realised that something was wrong. She said: “As soon as we stepped off the train we were rushed through an emergency exit. At the start we thought it was just a fire, but as more and more emergency services were rushing into the airport, we knew that it was something more serious.

“Relatives back home began to phone us and we found out that two explosions had taken place in the airport. We began to panic and made our way out of the airport. A few of the group started to cry and we knew our families would be stressing about us.

“We were able to make our way to safety and found a cafe, where we were able to contact our families to let them know that we were safe and well.”

Matthew described how it was a stressful experience until they had made it to safety.

The young man, who is in the first year of his sport and exercise course at Ulster University Jordanstown, said: “Once we had found out that it had been a series of terrorist attacks, it was a very stressful time. I was unsure if there was going to be another bomb. I have been away with the group about four or five times now and there has never been anything like this. I will not be returning to Belgium any time soon. My mum and dad were over the moon when I returned home as they had been panicking all day.”

Both Chantelle and Matthew have praised the Education Authority officers.

Matthew added: “The Youth Service staff kept everyone calm yesterday. They worked really hard and I know that if they had not been there, we would have struggled to get through the whole experience.”

A series of bomb attacks took place at the international airport in Brussels and a metro station in the city. The attacks killed more than 30 people and left hundreds injured.