Disasters & Accidents

Surviving crew of Villa de Pitanxo shipwreck returning to Spain

By Julio Cesar Rivas

St. John’s, Canada, Feb 21 (EFE).- The three surviving crewmembers from the sinking of the Villa de Pitanxo, along with the bodies of five of their companions, are en route to Spain on board a Spanish air force Airbus A400 that took off on Monday from St. John’s, Canada, heading for Santiago de Compostela.

The aircraft departed at 2:40 pm on Monday from the airport in the capital of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador with the owner of the Spanish fishing vessel, Juan Enrique Padin Costas, his nephew Eduardo Rial Padin and Ghanaian sailor Samuel Kwesi Koufie aboard along with the bodies of one other Ghanaian crewmember and four Spaniards.

Spanish authorities have not publicly announced the identifies of the fishermen who died in the shipwreck and whose remains are being returned to Spain. Another 12 sailors on board the Villa de Pitanxo remain missing.

In addition to the four Spanish fishermen and one Ghanaian, the bodies of four Peruvian sailors were also recovered.

The crew of the fishing boat included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians.

On Sunday night and part of Monday morning, Spanish diplomatic representatives worked around the clock with Canadian authorities to arrange the repatriation of the bodies of the dead on the same aircraft that was to transport the three survivors.

In addition to the voluminous documentation Canada requires for transporting human remains, meticulous work had to be done to identify the dead.

Finally, about midday, Canadian authorities had verified and approved all the documentation, whereupon they allowed the bodies of the crewmembers to be placed aboard the A400 that had been waiting at the St. John’s airport since Sunday.

Several hearses transported the coffins to the jet. Earlier, terminal workers had strategically parked trucks and buses in the area to prevent television cameras from capturing images of the loading of the coffins onto the plane.

At 2 pm, a dark-colored minibus pulled up next to the mobile stairway beside the A400. Inside the vehicle were the three survivors along with Spain’s ambassador to Canada, Alfredo Martinez Serrano, Spain’s consul in Montreal, Luis Calvo, and other Spanish diplomatic representatives.

After getting out of the minibus, the trio of survivors embraced the Spanish diplomats and later climbed the stairway to board the plane, where they were welcomed by the A400’s crew. Shortly thereafter, the military aircraft started its engines and took off.

Meanwhile, in St. John’s the bodies of four other Peruvian crewmembers from the Villa de Pitanxo are awaiting the finalization of procedures for transporting them back to their homeland.

On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that Canadian authorities told him that when weather conditions improve, “they will help” in the efforts to search for the missing sailors off the coast of Newfoundland.

Sanchez announced that he will travel to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia in northwestern Spain, to meet the aircraft when it lands.

Meanwhile, the families of the 12 missing crewmen have insisted right from the start that the search for their loved ones be resumed after Canada suspended it 36 hours after the vessel sank.

According to what the firm that owns the Villa de Pitanxo, Pesquerias Nores, said citing information provided by Juan Padin, the shipwreck was in all likelihood caused by the “sudden” failure of the boat’s main engine.

The firm added that the engine stopped while the boat was maneuvering on the open sea, leaving the vessel “without power and out of control” and exposed to the wind and waves, and shortly thereafter it capsized and sank “very quickly.”

EFE jcr/rrt/bp

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