Spanish officials arrive in St. John’s to repatriate survivors, bodies from sunken vessel

Spanish officials arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday to begin the process of repatriating the survivors and the bodies recovered from the sinking of a Spanish fishing vessel.

Deputy Premier Siobhan Coady met with Alfredo Martinez, Spanish Ambassador to Canada, and Jean Pierre Andrieux, Honorary Vice-Consul of Spain to Newfoundland and Labrador, as their flight touched down in St. Louis. John’s late Sunday morning.

The Villa de Pitanxo fishing vessel sank in heavy seas off the coast of Newfoundland early Tuesday. Three survivors as well as the bodies of nine crew members were found after the ship sank.

Of the 24 crew members, 12 were still missing when the search was called off Thursday.

Premier Andrew Furey says the province is offering any support it can.

“As a provincial government, we are able to help in support on the ground in our jurisdiction, and then help navigate the federal bureaucracy where appropriate, to ensure that this is seamless during this time of tragedy,” he said.

The Playa Menduina Dos carrying the bodies of 7 crew members who died when a Spanish fishing vessel sank off the coast of Newfoundland arrived in St. Petersburg. John’s Saturday. (Ted Dillon / CBC)

Furey said offering support was paramount in the wake of what he called a “substantive international event.”

“We were more than willing to [support the efforts] given the country has an intimate relationship over history with the sea and in particular, the fishing grounds off Newfoundland and Labrador, “he said.

Furey said some of the bodies and survivors will be flown back tomorrow, and a meeting with officials is in the works for early in the week.

“We would like to get to a space where both governments and both sets of governments are in a spot where we can honor those lives lost,” he said.

Province familiar with ocean disasters

Furey said the sinking of the Villa de Pitanxo is a stark reminder for a seafaring province that has seen more than its share of ocean tragedies.

“I think an incident like this opens up a lot of raw wounds for people who have lost loved ones,” he said.

“Frankly, it reminds us of our cultural attachment to the ocean – as tragic as it can be at times.”

The tragedies of the Ocean Ranger and the USS Truxtun and USS Pollux, for example, which marked milestone anniversaries last week.

Deputy Premier Siobhan Coady awaits as officials from Spain touch down in St. John’s Sunday. (Andrew Furey / Twitter)

The flood of support that followed those tragedies, Furey said, is proof that an ocean that divides the eastern and western hemispheres is also one that unites.

“This incident is no different as the whole province has rallied to support foreigners,” he said.

“I think it’s important that Newfoundland and Labrador and Spanish governments come together to do something similar to recognize this tragedy for them and to cause us all to reflect on and on tragedies in the ocean.”

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