NEGOMBO: When Dilip Fernando arrived at St Sebastian’s church in Sri Lanka’s Negombo on Easter Sunday, it was so crowded he went elsewhere for mass. The decision probably saved his life.
Shortly after he left, a massive bomb ripped through the church as worshippers observed the Christian holiday. Dozens died there on a day of carnage across Sri Lanka that saw at least 290 people killed in eight blasts.On Monday morning, Fernando returned to the church in the seaside town of Negombo to see the damage at the site where he and his family narrowly escaped death.
“I usually come to services here,” the 66-year-old retiree told AFP, as around three dozen security personnel stood outside the church.
“Yesterday me and my wife arrived at 7:30 am but it was so crowded there was no place for me. I didn’t want to stand so I left and went to another church.”
But seven of Fernando’s extended family including in-laws and his two granddaughters decided to stay, sitting outside because the church was so crowded.
And it was there that they saw a man they believe was the suicide bomber behind the deadly explosion.
“At the end of the mass they saw one young man go into the church in with a heavy bag,” Fernando said.“He touched my granddaughter’s head on the way past. It was the bomber.”
The family wondered why he was entering the church with mass nearly over, Fernando said, adding that the man had looked to be around 30 and “very young and innocent”, according to his relatives.
“He was not excited or afraid. He was so calm.”
Shortly after the man entered the church, there was a massive blast. “They heard it and quickly ran away, they were so afraid. They called me immediately to ask if I was inside the church, but by then I was in a different church.”