Volunteer diver moved to tears in rescue-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
CEBU CITY -- “I just couldn’t imagine the terror these people felt, especially at the last moment of their lives.”
This is what British national Richard Kirkham said after he became emotional when interviewed by the media on his experience in the retrieval operation of the ill-fated mv St. Thomas of Aquinas.
The 50-year-old technical diver from Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro couldn’t hold back his tears, especially after retrieving a child Thursday from the shipwreck hours before the press conference.
“Perhaps, recovering a young child would affect anybody,” he said, adding he doesn’t get easily emotional when retrieving adults.
Kirkham, a member of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxilliary (PCGA), had been diving almost every day a week after he flew to Cebu following the Aug. 16 collision.
He sustained scratches on his head after being hit by the wreckage.
Kirkham, who has been living in the country for two decades, grabbed the opportunity to help after learning the sea tragedy, leaving his Filipino wife and child at home.
During the interview, he said this was his first time to be involved in such a large-scale retrieval operation.
“It’s not a nice situation inside the ship,” Kirkham said.
To focus on his work, he said he needs to have “a heart of stone.” However, Kirkham said his emotion would kick in at night as he thinks about it.
He assured the bereaved families of the missing crew and passengers they are working very hard.
“They must continue to pray for the return of their loved ones,” Kirkham said.
Meanwhile, it was not only Kirkham who gets sad at the sight of cadavers in the sunken passenger vessel.
“I’m also very sad. I want to give them to their families,” said Han Kil Hyung, one of the few other volunteer technical divers.
The 37-year-old Korean said the ship is hard to penetrate because of the heavy debris and oil spill.
Han said there were times when he ingested a small amount of oil when changing the diving regulator that’s why divers do it carefully.
Han has been living in Cebu for almost a decade and owns a diving shop in Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.
He was part of the diving team in the search, rescue and retrieval operations in the plane crash that killed Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo off Masbate City.
Han said his action now is a way of giving back to the country for letting him live for a long time.
“This is not my country, but I will help in any way that I can,” he said.
After our separate interviews, Kirkham and Han prepared their gears to go back and dive. They promised to help until the operation is called off. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2013.