HOME SAFE: The St John’s group, which included Ulladulla students, was pictured outside the Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place just minutes before an armed gunman entered the café.A group of Ulladulla students made a potentially life-saving decision not to enter the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place on Monday morning where two hostages were later killed.
The six teenagers are relieved to be home with their families after they were almost caught up in the 17-hour siege that brought the city to a stand-still.
The students from the Milton-Ulladulla district were on a two-day St John’s the Evangelist High School excursion and had sent family members photos of themselves with the Sunrise television crew in Martin Place only 10 minutes before 17 people were taken hostage by a lone gunman in the nearby cafe.
Their concerned parents were unable to contact the students or teachers for up to half an hour, but were relieved to discover the group had left the area shortly before the CBD lock-down.
Joanne West-Field was beside herself with worry after hearing about the siege only minutes after receiving a photo from her daughter Bridget and her classmates.
“Having received a Snapchat at 9.38am of the girls outside Sunrise, when I heard of the siege shortly after my stomach sank,” Mrs West-Field said.
“I knew they were in the vicinity and I prayed they hadn’t had a chocolate urge.
“I tried texting, calling with no response and it wasn’t until I heard her voice there was some relief.”
Jeff Thoroughgood told the Times he was pleased to learn the school group, including his daughter Paris, had left the area and were safe in Darling Harbour when the tragic events unfolded.
He said, with three people killed, including two hostages and the gunman at 2.15am on Tuesday, it was “distressing to think what could have happened”.
“We were obviously very relieved given the outcome of the siege and having now found out that just prior they were debating whether to go into the cafe but decided not to,” he said.
“It’s distressing when you think what nearly happened, but thanks to the teachers for looking after the kids and our thoughts go out to those who lost loved ones in the siege.”
Before heading back to their accommodation in Randwick, Paris told her parents it was “frightening” to know the siege was happening right alongside them.
The 30 year nine and 10 students from across the Shoalhaven were on an end of year sightseeing and shopping tour in the CBD and visited venues including Martin Place, Madam Tussauds and Darling Harbour.
As part of the excursion the group watched Channel 7’s Sunrise program being filmed on Monday morning at the station’s studio in Martin Place.
They had their photos taken with the news crew and Cash Cow before walking past the popular chocolate cafe and heading to Darling Harbour.
St John’s principal Neil McCann said on Monday the group had decided to “take stock and reassess their plan” following the incident that brought Sydney to a stand-still.
He said the decision was made for the school group to stay overnight in Sydney and return home to the Shoalhaven on Tuesday to avoid catching a train from Central Station.
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