'Pure luck': Edmonton family escaped Spain attack by minutes

An Edmonton man travelling in Spain said it’s “pure luck” his family wasn’t caught in a deadly van attack on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas Thursday.

“We were there on that exact stretch 10 minutes before those murderers drove their van down it,” said Neil Grahn, who visited the tourist hub with his wife and children the morning of the attack.

“It’s just packed with people out enjoying the walk and the market,” Grahn said. “The person who drove that van just went down the very middle.”

Neil Grahn

Neil Grahn, seen here travelling in China, says he left Barcelona’s Las Ramblas minutes before a deadly van attack Thursday. (Supplied/Neil Grahn)

A van plowed into the densely packed tourist area Thursday afternoon, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 100.

One Canadian died in the attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Friday. Four other Canadians were injured.

“It feels shockingly close to sharing the tragedy that other people experienced,” Grahn said. “It just really brings home the vagaries of life.”

Grahn, a writer, producer, director and comedian who appears on CBC’s The Irrelevant Show, said his family left Las Ramblas minutes before the attack.

They returned to their hotel, where a barrage of messages from concerned friends lit up Grahn’s phone.

Barcelona went dark as stores and restaurants shut down. The people inside huddled around TVs, Grahn said, waiting for information.

“The street was abandoned,” he said. “It was as if there was a pall over the city and it was as if there was a weight that just hadn’t been there.”

‘It just makes me feel sad’

The family returned to Canada on Friday. Despite the close call, Grahn said he won’t let the experience dampen future travel plans.

“We just have to be careful not to get into a comfortable state here in Canada,” he said. “I don’t think it matters where you are, someone who’s of murderous intent can get in a vehicle and drive down any busy street. 

“For me it doesn’t change any thoughts of travelling, it just makes me feel sad about how people can be so murderous in this world.”

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