31/07/2012 09:23

Sea tragedy strikes diocese of Gizo, Solomon Islands: teacher dead, priest missing

A Filipino teacher is confirmed dead and few are still missing, including a Filipino missionary priest, after a speed boat belonging to the Catholic Bishop of Gizo, Luciano Capelli SDB, went missing on Saturday afternoon in the waters of the Solomon Islands: “Fr Edmund and teacher Bryan, both from Bicol, East of Manila, left by boat for Nila from Gizo on Saturday at about 8:30 in the morning. Together with them was the skipper Lawrence with his 11 years old brother, his wife and two children (3 and 7 years old), and two other boys Dennis and Roland. They waited here in Gizo for one week until the weather was good and then left for Nila”, recalls Bishop Capelli.

They were spotted by other vessels at sea on Saturday afternoon, but failed to reach the shores of Nila late in the day. Witnesses report that the sea was calm even if it was cloudy and there was occasional rain fall along the way. A search and rescue operation was immediately mounted with the help of the Australian police and military contingent in the Solomon Islands. An additional aircraft and crew specialized in search and rescue sea-operations flew in directly from Australia on Sunday night.

That same night, however, the Bishop received the shocking news that one of the empty containers of the fuel that Fr. Ed used on that boat was washed ashore near the village of Pirumeri nearby Nila.

On Monday morning the news came that one of the boys, Dennis, had swam across from the boat to Pirumeri Village: “According to reports received by radio - says Bishop Capelli - ,  we got a double version of what Dennis said: the first report says everyone was safe on top of the capsized boat. The second report says they are all safe floating on the boat”.

On Monday afternoon, 30 July, the rescue helicopter came in with the brother in law of the skipper, who seemed on the top list of those needing attention. Another chopper had just come in with two more rescued people needing medical attention at the Gizo Hospital. Tree more aircrafts were searching the area for the 2 missing children (apparently seen floating dead by their parents) and the two missing young men: Ronald and Ryan with Fr. Ed and the teacher.

On Tuesday morning, however, the dead body of teacher Ryan Turallo was found washed ashore at Aleang Village of the main Alu Island in the Shortlands.