Netherlands and Spain strive to honor lost crew of sunken ship as survivors return home

Hearses arrive on the tarmac at St. John’s International Airport to deliver bodies recovered off the coast of Newfoundland following the sinking of a ship last week. (Patrick Butler/Radio Canada)

Government officials from Spain and Newfoundland and Labrador will meet on Tuesday to discuss ways to honor the 21 men lost in the sinking of the Spanish fishing vessel Villa de Pitanxo off the coast of the island the week last.

Spanish dignitaries, including the Spanish ambassador to Canada Alfredo Martínez Serrano and Jean Pierre Andrieux, the honorary vice-consul of Spain, came to the province on Monday to repatriate the nine bodies found after the sinking. The bodies were delivered to a Spanish plane at St. John’s International Airport on Monday, which flew them back to Spain.

While no lives in Newfoundland and Labrador were lost, Premier Andrew Furey said the incident was one that touched close to home for many people in the province.

“We have all been in direct or indirect contact throughout history with different tragedies with the ocean. And I think an incident like this opens up many raw wounds for people who have lost loved ones” , Furey said on Monday.

“And frankly, it reminds us of our cultural attachment to the ocean, however tragic that may be at times.”

Watching from the tarmac at St. John’s International, Spanish journalist Clara Blàzquez says there are many people in Spain eager for the survivors – and those who have been lost – to return.

Clara Blàzquez is a journalist with public television RTVE in Spain. (Patrick Butler/Radio Canada)

“Families know that it is very difficult to find their family alive in the sea, but they must know that [people] looking for them and finding them even if they are not alive,” Blàzquez said.

“They need to say goodbye and cry with the people they love.”

Spanish President Pedro Sánchez, along with family members of recovered crew members, were to greet the plane upon its return to the province of Galicia.

“It is the most terrible tragedy of the last 40 years in the fishing sector,” Blàzquez said. “All Spaniards are very worried and very sad about what happened here.”

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