WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) — California resident Jared Tucker and his new bride had just sent joyful pictures from their first trip to Europe, a vacation they’d saved for to celebrate their 1-year anniversary. The last pictures arrived a day before tragedy struck.
Tucker’s family in Northern California learned Friday that he was among those killed in a deadly truck attack a day earlier in Barcelona, Spain, becoming the only known American fatality among 14 victims.
Tucker’s father, Dan Tucker, stood outside his home in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Walnut Creek, scrolling through pictures on his phone in disbelief. One showed Jared frolicking in the ocean at a Barcelona beach, his arms raised above his head. Another shows Jared in sunglasses pretending to ride a statue of a lion.
“That’s him just having a ball,” his father said, choking up as he looked at the pictures. “Everybody is just shocked. What are the chances? That one person in the whole United States is the victim of terrorists and it’s Jared.”
Jared, 42, worked with his father in a family business remodeling swimming pools. He had “a magnetic personality and people loved him,” his dad said. He liked to fish, play golf and other sports and he was deeply in love with his wife, Heidi-Nunes-Tucker, 40, a schoolteacher, his father said.
Betty Needham, who works at one of the companies Daniel Tucker owns, said she’s known the younger Tucker for years.
“Once you meet him, you’d never forget him. He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s got a big smile and a big heart,” she said. “It’s a big loss here for us. He’s leaving a big hole here.”
Jared’s sister, Tina Luke, told The Associated Press that Tucker and his wife had married a year ago and were celebrating their anniversary after having saved up for the trip.
They spent about four days in Paris and were to have stayed in Barcelona another four days with plans to return home on Saturday, his father said.
Nunes-Tucker told NBC News that the couple was having drinks at a patio in Barcelona on Thursday when her husband said he was going to the bathroom.
“Next thing I know, there’s screaming, yelling,” she said. “I got pushed inside the souvenir kiosk and stayed there hiding while everybody kept running by screaming.”
Nunes-Tucker was notified by the U.S. Consulate which first showed her pictures of the victims and then took her to see his body, Tucker’s father said.
The couple lived in Lafayette, the town next to his parents, where friends gathered outside the home.
A neighbor, Diana Gray, described them as a “very happy, loving” couple.
Jared’s father said he had been through a broken marriage and tough times but he was so happy lately.
“I’ve not seen him happier than he’s been this last year,” his father said softly. “The last week has probably been some of the happiest time of his life. That’s the only consoling part — that he probably died happy,” Dan Tucker said.
The State Department confirmed earlier Friday that at least one American was killed and one injured in the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain.
In remarks to State Department staff on Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the death and expressed condolences to the victim’s family. He said diplomats from the U.S. consulate in Barcelona are working with local authorities to identify victims and provide assistance to other Americans in need.
Jared Tucker leaves behind three daughters, his sister said in a message posted on a fundraising website.
“Pray for Jared and his family, pray for Barcelona, but most importantly pray that we can someday rid ourselves of the hate that takes our loved ones before their time,” she wrote.
Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles also contributed to this report.