Thursday, 26 September 2013

Cebu ferry disaster: Unknown casualties buried

White balloons and butterflies were released by relatives of the missing passengers of the ill-fated MV St Thomas Aquinas as the remains of the 46 unidentified casualties of the Aug. 16 sea tragedy were laid to rest yesterday at the Carreta Public Cemetery in Cebu City.

A total of 733 survived the collision between the St Thomas Aquinas and the MV Sulpicio Express Siete, a freighter owned by the Philippine Span Carriers Corp. in waters near Lauis Ledge in Talisay City. The Aquinas, which was en route to Cebu City from Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, was carrying 870 passengers and crew.

Divers retrieved 72 bodies from the Aquinas which sunk after colliding with the bulk carrier while 44 others were retrieved from other areas.

According to Luz Torevillas, 2GO passage manager, the bodies of the 70 identified passengers were transported to their respective hometowns.

A total of 21 passengers and crew remain unaccounted for, according to the coast guard.

The 46 bodies were transported from the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes to the cemetery Tuesday night and were placed in individual vaults near the burial site of the victims of the 2008 sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars.

Sulpicio Lines was renamed Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. following the sinking of the Princess of the Stars.

Labels were placed on each coffin for easy identification once the results of the DNA tests conducted by forensic experts from the PNP Crime Laboratory become available. The results are expected to be released within three months, officials said.

An official of 2GO shipping lines, the operator of the MV St Thomas Aquinas told Cebu Daily News that relatives of the casualties may opt to have the remains of their kin exhumed.

Some of the relatives of the 21 missing passengers who attended yesterday’s interment ceremony, together with city officials led by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Talisay City Mayor Johnny delos Reyes, coast guard, police and fire officials were ushered to tents set up by funeral coordinators from Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes and representatives of 2GO shortly before 8 a.m yesterday. Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III arrived after the ceremony ended.

The 21 may be still within the wreck of the Aquinas, which sank after the accident.

There was no representative from the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who presided over the Requiem Mass, comforted the grieving families and prayed that similar tragedies will not happen.

After the speeches, Palma blessed the burial site. White balloons and butterflies were released as the song “I will be here” played in the background.

Thursday 26 September 2013


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