A year after ships collision: 21 still lost at sea

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Sunday, August 17, 2014


CEBU CITY -- A year after two vessels collided near the Lauis Ledge in Talisay City, 41 bodies buried in Cebu City’s Carreta cemetery remain unidentified.

At least 21 others are still missing, and some bodies may still be within the wreck of the St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank shortly after a collision with the Sulpicio Express Siete cargo vessel last August 16, 2013.

Technical divers suspended the retrieval operation about a month after the accident, which had killed 116 passengers and crew. About 750 persons survived.

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Vice President Lito Salvio and other executives and employees of 2Go Shipping marked the anniversary by offering a mass in their office, followed by the blessing of tombs in Carreta cemetery.

Forty-six bodies were buried there, and the authorities identified five last December. The five bodies where then exhumed and given to the families.

The families of the 41 still entombed in Carreta, as well as the 21 lost at sea, continue to wait.

“We have no word yet,” said Salvio, referring to the results of the DNA tests that the crime laboratory of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame had promised to provide.

Identification

To identify the bodies, DNA samples were compared with other samples provided by the families.

“During our last meeting last year, (Cebu City) Mayor Michael Rama has given instruction to the PNP to facilitate the identification, which was done in Manila,” Salvio told reporters.

OFFERING
OFFERING. Vice President Lito Salvio of 2Go Shipping lights a candle at the tombs of 41 persons who died when the St. Thomas Aquinas, a 2Go vessel, collided with the Sulpicio Express Siete of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Group last August 16, 2013. A total of 116 died in the accident. (Sun.Star photo/Allan Cuizon)


As soon as the bodies are identified, Salvio said that the PNP will directly contact the families. He assured that the shipping company will still monitor the progress of the identification process.

Separate masses were offered in different churches in Cebu yesterday, and flowers and candles offered at each tomb.

Representatives of the Cebu City Government headed by Alvin Santillana, the City’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council operations officer, also attended the ceremony.

In his homily, Fr. Ruel Desamparado urged those who attended the ceremony to pray for those who died in the accident.

“They are now in the hands of the lord,” he said.

But there were no family members of the missing passengers to hear his words.

“We invited the families. Those who had contacted our office in Manila, we told them that there will be a blessing ceremony,” Salvio said.

Site visit

Another blessing ceremony and the offering of flowers will be held today by the Coast Guard, at the site where the Aquinas sank off Lauis Ledge.

An oil spill that resulted from the accident has also promoted officials of Cordova and fishers’ groups to go to court and ask for some US$3 million (around P130.8 million) in compensation.

Asked if the company still plans to salvage the vessel, Salvio said the decision will depend on the Coast Guard’s recommendations.

Based on the initial findings, the vessel did not hamper the voyage of other vessels passing in the area, he pointed out. Last year, 2Go hired experts to study the position of the vessel and the danger it might cause to the environment.

Before it sank, the vessel departed from Nasipit in Butuan and was bound for Manila. It was supposed to dock in Cebu, only for a stopover. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 17, 2014.

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