A couple have told of the terrifying moment they landed in Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport, just hours after 45 people were killed in a gun and bomb attack.
Shane Corbett and his wife Tara Pettit-Corbett were mid-flight between Johannesburg and the Turkish capital when the suicide attackers struck on Tuesday, June 28.
They were returning to Manchester airport, from Capetown, South Africa, after a 13-day break to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.
Mr Corbett, 31, said: “We were returning from our holiday and didn’t know anything about the attacks.
“We don’t think they announced anything because of the panic.
“When we landed in Istanbul, we pulled off the runway and they said there was no parking places for the plane available.
At the slightest noise, everyone was glancing around, getting ready to dive for cover.Shane Corbett
“We were stuck a while then they just took us off literally at the side of the runway and just lined all the planes up.”
After the delays on the plane, the couple, who live in Pontefract town centre, were bussed to the terminal.
And it was here they first realised something was wrong.
Mr Corbett said: “As soon as we opened the door, we walked in and just couldn’t move.
“There were lots of people stood everywhere, some people laying on the floor trying to sleep.
“We were worried. We knew then something was not right, but we still didn’t know what.
“We thought maybe there was lots of delays due to the weather, because there had been lightning earlier in the day.”
Memories of their once-in-a-lifetime safari and Great White Shark diving holiday were pushed firmly to the back of their minds as the couple turned on their phones and began to work out the horror of what had happened.
Shane said he and Tara, who works at Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield, were bombarded with messages from family and friends.
He told the Express: “One of my best friends had left a voice message in tears, asking us to let him know if we were okay.
“But still none of the messages had said what was happening and we thought what on earth is going on?
“We turned on the airport WiFi to see the news, at this point we had a feeling something bad had happened.
“We felt really scared as soon as we saw it.”
The couple described scenes of tension at the airport, as flights were cancelled and delayed in the aftermath of the terror attack.
Mr Corbett said: “Everyone seemed really on edge. If a child started screaming, everyone flinched and looked over straight away, really on edge.
“At the slightest noise, everyone was glancing around, getting ready to dive for cover.”
After delays throughout the night, they were placed on a flight back to Manchester Airport.
And following “extensive” security checks, they made it home safely.
Mr Corbett, who returned to work at the Halifax Bank in Halifax town centre earlier this week, said: “To be honest, we didn’t think about what had happened until we got home. Then we just kept thinking, God what would we have done if that was us.”
He added: “It was horrible to think people were just carrying on as normal where almost 50 people had just died.
“Seeing videos of people running for their lives knowing if our flight from Capetown to Istanbul would have been direct rather than via Johannesburg we could have been in that airport at the time with someone was trying to kill us.
“It felt very real and very scary and has shook me and Tara up.”
After reading about the ongoing conflict in Turkey during the past few months, the couple admit they were reluctant to make their flight changeover in the country’s capital.
But they said the flights had already been booked and they were left with no choice but to keep them, as the costs of rearranging were too high.
He said: “Whilst this has tarnished the memories of our fifth anniversary holiday, 50 people died in that terror attack and we didn’t.
“If you think about what could have happened it is pretty scary, and we were very lucky.”