23 Apr 2019

Sri Lanka bombings victims include Australian mother and 10-year-old

4:26 pm on 23 April 2019

An Australian man whose wife and daughter were killed in the Sri Lankan terrorism attacks has described the moment a bomb went off during an Easter Sunday church service.

Sudesh Kolonne with his wife Manik Suriaaratchi and his daughter Alexendria.

Sudesh Kolonne with his wife Manik Suriaaratchi and his daughter Alexendria. Photo: Supplied / ABC / Sudesh Kolonne

At least 290 people were killed and 500 injured in a series of coordinated blasts in churches and hotels, in Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war ended in 2009.

Australian woman Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter Alexendria were killed in the attack in Negombo, north of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo. Ms Suriaaratchi's husband, Sudesh Kolonne, was outside when the blast hit.

Mr Kolonne told the ABC his wife and daughter had been excited to join the Easter mass at St Sebastian's Catholic Church, which they attended "every Sunday".

He had just walked out of the church ahead of them after the service when the bomb blast tore through the building.

"I heard a huge noise and I jumped into the church and I saw that my wife and my daughter were on the floor," he said.

"I just saw my daughter on the floor and I tried to lift her up, [but] she was already dead. And [then] exactly the same… next my wife is there."

Mr Kolonne said his family had moved from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2014 after his wife started a consultancy business.

He described Ms Suriaaratchi as a smart, talented and successful entrepreneur. Alexendria was a grade five student at an international school in Colombo.

"[She] loved music, loved to dance," he said.

Officials inspect the damaged St. Sebastian's Church after multiple explosions targeting churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Photo: AFP / Chamila Karunarathne / Anadolu Agency

In Melbourne, there was an outpouring of grief at vigils around the city as Australia's migrant Sri Lankan community absorbed the scale of the terror attack.

One of the organisers of a Buddhist service at a temple in Melbourne's south-east, Pushpa Jayakody, said it had been a day of mourning for her community.

"We have been phoning each other, talking to each other, trying to console each other, because we never, ever expected something like this on a special day like this," she said.

Ms Jayakody said her second cousin's wife and daughter were killed in a bomb blast at the Shangri-La Hotel.

"On Easter Sunday, they were having breakfast in the Shangri-La Hotel when this bomb occurred," she said.

"It's very unbelievable to hear that both my cousin's wife and her daughter have passed away, leaving a little infant baby."

Ms Jayakody said local Sri Lankan community members were urging leaders in their homeland to renew peace efforts in the wake of the devastating attacks.

"I just want to, in a way, also take this opportunity to tell the Sri Lankan Government leaders and the Opposition, everybody, to somehow ensure peace and harmony in Sri Lanka and also make Sri Lanka's different ethnic communities and different religions, languages, all as Sri Lankans."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday extended his "deepest and most sincere sympathies to the family".

Two from Perth caught up in Sri Lanka bombings

British nationals Bill Harrop and Sally Bradley were on holiday in Sri Lanka, reportedly with their son Gavin, when they were caught up in the blasts on Easter Sunday.

Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it explodes when police tried to defuse a bomb near St. Anthony's Shrine as priests look on in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Photo: Jewel SAMAD / AFP

Mr Harrop and Dr Bradley had moved to Western Australia from Manchester after Mr Harrop retired from a decorated career as a firefighter in 2012.

The 56-year-old had worked in the Greater Manchester area and was highly praised for his actions after an IRA bombing in 1996 that left more than 200 people injured.

Western Australia's Department of Health paid tribute to Dr Bradley, 56, who was the director of clinical services at the Rockingham Peel Group.

She was described as a "well respected and dedicated" medical executive.

Executive director of Rockingham Peel Group Kathleen Smith said Dr Bradley was serious about her work but also "a lot of fun".

"I think most people are just in disbelief," she said.

"Not everybody realised that she was on holiday there, so it hadn't crossed their mind that she was at risk.

"I just don't think people can take it in at the moment, it's just devastating."

She said Dr Bradley left for Sri Lanka on Friday and had been looking forward to the trip for several weeks.

"Her husband had gone out a few days before her to meet up with his son, her stepson, and she was joining him on, I think it was Saturday.

"I texted her to say, 'just checking in, hope you're okay' - she obviously didn't respond.

"I thought it was maybe due to the media blackout that I'd heard about, kept thinking 'oh surely she'll respond soon' and then got more worried as it got to the 24-hour mark.

"And that's when I found out, when one of her other friends contacted me to let me know."

She said Dr Bradley first came to WA earlier in the decade.

"She just loved Australia, she felt she was at home in Australia," she said.

"Her husband came back and forth, he would go home, check the house, come back for several months here.

"I know that Sally wanted to move here and I know that they were working through where was the best place for them to be, because Bill had two sons and they both, I think, were working in different countries.

"They were both soulmates."

Tributes for a 'bright light'

Former Manchester MP Lord Keith Bradley paid tribute to his sister, describing Dr Bradley as "truly a bright light in many people's lives".

"The light may have been cruelly distinguished for no reason or justification, but she will always live in our hearts and the memories she provided will be forever cherished," he said.

The couple's family released a statement describing Mr Harrop and Dr Bradley as "kindred spirits".

"She was the personification of joy that life could bring if you approached it with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart," the statement said.

"Their aim was always to experience life to the fullest. Kindred spirits, they travelled the world together, safe in each other's arms and with smiles across their faces.

"They will be forever sorely missed, but never forgotten."


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