A Londoner who lost his sister and brother in the Easter Bombings launches a fund-raising campaign to raise £5m for a new Sri Lankan trauma centre. He’s already supplied 100 emergency trolley-beds to the main hospital.18 December 2019
By Paul Cainer
David Linsey, 21, whose teenage sister and brother died in a bomb explosion in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, has launched a multi-million pound fund-raising campaign to build and equip a complete trauma centre on the island.
He has returned to London from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, where the charity he set up in his brother’s and sister’s memory donated 100 emergency trolley beds to the same hospital at which his siblings had been pronounced dead. The British ambassador was at the presentation.
“We got the trolleys built in Sri Lanka and they cost only 250 pounds each, miles cheaper than doing it in Britain,” enthused Linsey, a final-year Oxford University student from west London.
His charity, the Amelie and Daniel Linsey Foundation, has already raised 315,000 pounds from private donors and from his fund-raising site https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/amelieanddaniellinseyfoundation. The 25,000 pounds total cost of the 100 trolley-beds is its largest expenditure to date.
He has taken a year off university to “make a difference”.
Linsey is confident he can raise between £5m and £10m to build and equip a cutting-edge trauma centre on the island.
“Doctors here told me they simply could not cope with all the bomb victims and had to treat many of them by propping them up against walls and carried them by hand to operating theatres and wards.
“The people of this wonderful island face many potential future threats and the next time – if there is a next time – I want to help them be much better able to save life and limb.”
Around 260 people, many of them children, died in six virtually simultaneous bomb explosions, set off by hardline pro-ISIS Islamists in three hotels and three churches during Easter morning services.
Linsey says no matter what care and equipment had been available, nothing would have saved his brother and sister. But his distraught father had witnessed “chaos” in the main hospital that day.
Amelie, 14, and Daniel, 19, were having breakfast in the smart seaside Shangri La Hotel when a suicide bomber set off his explosives. David had not traveled to Sri Lanka as he was studying for his exams.
His father survived the blast virtually unscathed – saved, says his son, by “a matter of inches”. Twelve other people died in the breakfast room, plus the bomber.
Linsey’s fund has already supported psychological trauma care for families of the victims and people injured in the blasts. It intends to help also in their ongoing education.
“I think what I’m doing does help me personally recover from the shock and trauma of this tragedy,” Linsey said. “How you respond to a disaster is what really counts. This is my way of coping, though I doubt I will ever be quite the same again.”
He has also addressed groups in the USA and at parliament.
While in Sri Lanka, Linsey was given another idea for helping to reduce death tolls during any future mass emergency. “We need to look into creating a squad of motor-bike riders to ferry people fast to hospitals and transfer the equipment and blood they may need,” Linsey said.
The idea came when Linsey, whose father is Jewish and mother is Catholic, visited Rabbi Shneor Maidanchik, a dynamic Israeli who runs a synagogue and provides tourists with hospitality in Colombo.
The rabbi told Linsey his own Chabad centre had been due to be targeted by a suicide bomber or attacker.
“Two men had scouted around the place and were filmed on CCTV,” he told Linsey. “But just by God’s grace we had decided to build a proper wall and a strong metal gate with a coded lock, and it was ready just days before the bombings.”
With his feelings still raw, Linsey declined offers to stay for free at the hotel where his siblings died. At a nearby hotel, on his first visit, he told correspondent.world:
“In my mind, Amelie and Daniel will never die. Daniel was the most selfless person — he would never do anything purely for himself. Amelie was the glue that brought the entire family together.
“I want them to be remembered — at least through the name and work of the foundation I’ve set up.
“I now have a new focus: not on death but on life. I really feel driven to unite everyone as we all share the pain, and move forward — to channel our pain into a productive mission.”
Linsey rejects the natural reflex of seeking retaliation or revenge. “There is no point in being caught in a cycle of violence, so that every attack leads to a retaliatory attack and things get worse and worse.
“At some point things have to change and to be part of that change is something very special.”
His most moving moment, he said, was coming face-to face with very young survivors. “We met children in Colombo affected by the bombings. Seeing these families made me emotional. It reinforced in me why I am doing this and why I’m here.
“My family in London is relatively so fortunate, with a house to live in, employment, and education for my [surviving] younger brother. But here in Sri Lanka, so many have lost their only breadwinner. And also communities that depend on tourism have lost everything.”
Linsey said many people have been left with horrific injuries – and deep psychological damage.
Asked how his visits to Sri Lanka have affected him personally, he responded: “All this is absolutely reducing my pain – though I am not sure I will ever fully recover.”
The worst shock he endured during this trip was when a doorman at his hotel thrust a mobile phone at him.”Is this your dad?” the doorman had asked. On the screen was a searing image of his own father, who had been moved to the hotel very soon after the blast at the nearby Shangri-La.
Linsey is determined not to let any of the money he has collected be squandered, so he is allocating much of it in small chunks to specific private charities. One of them, Nest, which is treating the physical and psychological traumas that children and their parents have suffered, has been given £5,000 by Linsey.
He was told that on the day of the atrocity his siblings were rushed to hospital where there were chaotic scenes as the injured and dying were brought in.
“People are often well-trained on an individual level,” he said, “but they may not work together as a team, and the hospitals may not communicate with each other.”
During his visit he also met the country’s Catholic cardinal, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, who said he was deeply impressed with Linsey and his projects. Two of the three churches bombed were Catholic.
“I was very moved when the Cardinal blessed me and blessed our mission,” said Linsey.