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“Nobody helped,” says family of Spanish woman killed in Paris bakery blast

Laura Sanz was on a romantic weekend with her husband when a gas leak caused a massive explosion

Laura Sanz
Aftermath of explosion. AFP

Relatives of a Spanish tourist who died in a Paris explosion said their country’s embassy is now providing them with assistance, a day after denouncing that they felt “completely abandoned.”

Laura Sanz Nombela, 38, died on Saturday morning in a powerful blast apparently caused by a gas leak in the bakery across from the hotel where she was staying with her husband. The couple was spending a romantic weekend in the French capital, and had left their three young children with their grandparents back in Burguillos (Toledo).

Everyone was recording it on their cellphones, nobody helped them

José Luis Sanz Gutiérrez

The blast killed four people, including two firefighters who were looking for the source of the gas leak, and injured dozens more. There are two Spaniards among the injured, although their identities have not been disclosed by the Spanish embassy.

On Saturday night, Laura’s father, José Luis Sanz Gutiérrez, told EL PAÍS that embassy personnel had provided minimal assistance to himself and Laura’s brother, who rushed to Paris after hearing the news. Neither one of them speaks French, and they were mostly left to their own devices at Paris University Hospital, where Laura’s body was taken.

An embassy spokesperson said that the consulate was permanently in touch with Laura’s family on Saturday.

Photo of Laura Sanz Nombela taken this weekend in Paris.
Photo of Laura Sanz Nombela taken this weekend in Paris.

After spending Saturday afternoon and part of the night in the emergency room with the body, at 4am Laura’s father, brother and husband were informed that she was being transferred to the morgue. “They left us in a hallway with a slip of paper showing the address. My son-in-law asked for permission to go in the ambulance, but they refused,” recalls Sanz Gutiérrez.

All three men spent the next hour-and-a-half wandering around the enormous hospital complex – 90 buildings spread over 33 hectares – in search of the morgue, which is located around eight kilometers from the emergency unit. “We got there at 5.30am, but it did not open until 8am. We stood outside the door, waiting,” says Laura’s father. “Then they left us in a room with Laura until 4.30pm, when they kicked us out again.”

Her father is determined not to leave Paris without the body. At first they were told that this might take 10 days, but the Spanish consulate is now working to speed up the paperwork, and officials are now talking about two to three days. Until then, the three men are staying at a hotel that they found themselves “out of pure luck” just 30 meters from the morgue.

“Ever since this morning [Sunday], consulate personnel have been by our side at all times, according to them to avoid any more mistakes,” says Sanz Gutiérrez. “If only they had done this yesterday.” The ambassador has been to see them, and they are now receiving psychological assistance, as they had requested on Saturday.

Wrong place, wrong time

It was close to 9am on Saturday, and Laura Sanz, who was taking a weekend break from her work as a cashier at a local supermarket in Burguillos (Toledo), was getting dressed inside her hotel room at the Mercure Paris Opéra Lafayette, located on the central Rue de Trévise. She told her husband Luis Miguel, whose idea it had been to go on a romantic trip together, to hurry up so they could go down to breakfast and start seeing the sights. They had never been to Paris before.

They left us in a hallway with a slip of paper showing the morgue address

José Luis Sanz Gutiérrez

And then the bakery across the street blew up. Her father explains what happened: “Laura was getting dressed by the window, with the drapes pulled shut. Luis Miguel was in bed when it happened, but my daughter was hit full on by the blast. The window frame was ripped off and hit her head. The poor man keeps saying that if it had happened either two minutes sooner or two minutes later, Laura would still be alive.”

Luis Miguel does not even remember whether he passed out, just that he was thrown hard against the bed. When he saw his wife lying on the floor, he began screaming for help out the window, then grabbed her in his arms and ran down the stairs. But nobody helped.

“Everyone was recording it on their cellphones, nobody helped them,” says Laura’s father. “Then a firefighter took her out of his arms, and started doing CPR until the ambulance arrived.” Laura was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead hours later.

“My son-in-law is physically all right, but psychologically... we still can’t believe it, we keep thinking about the children, who are 10, five and three years old,” says Laura’s father. “She and Luis Miguel had been together ever since they met when Laura was 16. Always together, until now.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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