1 Fort Lauderdale
News & Reviews
A Weston family who witnessed the deadly van attack in Spain returned home Friday afternoon.
The Ritkes family was vacationing in Europe when a driver intentionally plowed through a busy shopping district in Barcelona. The family of six landed at Miami International Airport with the violence burned in their memory.
“People were screaming terrorists immediately…just a wave of people stampeded. It happened so quickly, and all of the sudden you see hundreds, thousands of people running at you,” recalled Gary Ritkes. They said experiencing the tragedy together has made them closer as a family.
They were just feet away from the van that killed more than a dozen people and injured more than 100.
“You just heard screaming. You heard, must have been bodies, we don’t know. It was terrible noises and we ran for our lives,” said Sonia Ritkes.
They were filing a police report just before the attack because Sonia had been robbed. They believe that if they hadn’t been waiting for police, they would have been directly in the van’s path.
“Gary ran back in and said I’m getting Charlie and Bo. I grabbed my other kids and I said ‘hold hands,’” recalled Sonia.
The family saw a restaurant and a man told them to run inside. The family ended up taking shelter inside, until the all-clear was given.
“All I kept thinking was ‘oh my god.’ Even though the doors were closed, it was glass walls [and] anybody could just jump in [and] just break the glass,” explained Sonia.
Despite the terrifying and chaotic end to the 10-day vacation, the family says the violence will not stop them from traveling across the world in the future.