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Friday, June 25, 1999 Published at 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK


Omagh bomb victim gets married

"The one good thing that came out of the bombing"

A woman who was severely injured in the Omagh bombing has walked unaided for the first time - at her own wedding.

Sandy Smith, 23, who was badly hurt by shrapnel in last August's bomb, married shop manager Mark Blackwell, 31, at a church in Lancaster.

The couple had only met once before the blast, which killed 29 people, but Mark proposed to Sandy while keeping a vigil at her bedside in Erne Hospital, Co Tyrone.

Sandy was supported by her father John as she walked into the city's Free Methodist Church, but then walked by herself, followed by three bridesmaids.

[ image: The bomb devastated Omagh and killed Sandy's best friend]
The bomb devastated Omagh and killed Sandy's best friend
The service, which they had called 'The first day of the rest of our lives' was taken by Mark's father, Pastor Ken Blackwell.

After the service, guest Paul Booth, 49, who had nursed Sandy in hospital, said: "I shed a few tears. It was lovely to see her walking."

His wife Anne, 46, added: "It was the first time she had walked unaided and she did really well. She looked lovely."

Holiday romance

Sandy, an auxiliary nurse at an old people's home in Omagh, met Mark, who managed a shop in Lancaster, at a Christian festival in Devon last June.

[ image: Mark nursed her from intensive care to wheelchair to walking]
Mark nursed her from intensive care to wheelchair to walking
They went their separate ways after the holiday, but when Mark heard that Sandy had been injured in the bombing, he took the first flight to Northern Ireland.

Sandy had suffered broken limbs, a paralysed left leg and shrapnel wounds all over her body.

Her best friend Julia Hughes, 21, who was standing beside her when the bomb detonated 100 yards away, was killed.

Mark said: "I'd never been to Northern Ireland but I just had to get to Sandy. I grabbed one change of clothes and my friends lent me the money between them.

"I only intended staying for two weeks at the most. But I realised I loved Sandy so much that I couldn't leave her."

Bedside vigil

He slept on two chairs pushed together by her bedside in intensive care for seven months, as she slowly recovered.

As her injuries healed Mark became her wheelchair-pusher, and when she left intensive care in March, he asked Sandy to marry him.

Sandy said: "After the bomb went off the next thing I knew was when I woke up in hospital and there was Mark by my side.

"He encouraged me, cajoled me and tried to make sure I didn't get depressed," she said.

"The one good thing that came out of that bombing was my feelings for Mark.This is the happiest day of my life."

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