After more than three long years of uncertainty, grief and despair, the Rebello family will finally get closure when they lay the remains of Russel to rest 10 days from now. The young sailor from Mumbai was aboard the Costa Concordia cruise liner that had run aground off the Tuscan coast in January 2012.
A file photograph shows Kevin holding out his brother Russel Rebello’s photo with the wreckage of Costa Concordia in the background. Pic/Getty Images
mid-day had reported in November last year that 1,025 days (2 years 9 months 21 days) after the disaster, divers had finally found Russel’s body in the wreckage of the ship. After being made to run around by the Indian Embassy in Rome to get the documentation in place, his brother Kevin expressed relief that everything was settled.
A file photo of the Rebello family shows Russel’s parents, Frank and Gladys, and wife, Vilma at their home
He said Russel’s mortal remains will be in Mumbai shortly and the funeral is slated to be held in Naigaon on February 22. “My son left the house with a smile, but he is returning motionless. It is a miracle that, after three years of wait, we could get him and can give him the last burial or else we would have struggled all our life.
He can at least rest in peace,” Russel’s mother Gladys told mid-day from their Naigaon home. “We are happy that after so many months of wait, our Russel is returning home and we can lay him to rest in the soil, where he belongs,” said an emotional Vikram Pinto, Russel’s brother-in-law.
“As the days are coming closer, the mood at home is turning grim and we are once again experiencing the same emotions that we had experienced when the news of the ship running aground had reached us three years ago.”
Some of mid-day’s reports on the tragedy and the subsequent search operation over the years, including the November 5 report on Russel’s body being found
Speaking to mid-day from Milan, Kevin said, “On January 24 this year, the forensic institute in Milan submitted a report to the local court stating that the DNA from the mortal remains found in the ship matched my DNA samples and it was confirmed that the remains were of Russel. The jury accepted the submissions made by the institute.”
Kevin added, “As per the procedure, the DNA from the remains was tested in Rome and Genoa. Russel’s mortal remains are kept in a sealed coffin in the mortuary in Genoa and will remain there under the care of health authorities, who will issue the required certificate for them to be transported to India.
The insurance company has already started completing the final set of documents, which should be ready by next Tuesday (February 17)” “I intend to get all the documents ready and leave for India on February 19. I should land in Mumbai the next day.
Russel’s remains will be kept in the coffin and the undertaker will preserve the same in a mortuary until Sunday, February 22, when the funeral mass will be held at Mother of God Church, Palli, Naigaon at 3 pm,” Kevin added
Kevin, however, was upset with the attitude of the officials at the Indian High Commission in Rome, who insisted that he should produce Russel’s original passport in order to obtain the mortuary passport (a certificate to transport the mortal remains to country of origin), so that the body could be airlifted.
“I had to explain to them the circumstances in which the accident had happened and that Russel had been aboard the Costa Concordia, which had sunk with the original documents of the passengers and crew. I had a photocopy of my brother’s passport, which I furnished, but it was upsetting that they kept delaying the mortuary passport for the original,” he said.
“The irony is that we Indians pretend to be strict followers of rules on foreign soil and demand all sorts of papers for verification before issuing any certificate or letter, but the reality is exactly the opposite in India, I had even pointed out to the officials that the Peruvian embassy in Rome had supported the family of Russel’s colleague Erika Fani Soriamolina and ensured that sending her body to Peru was a hassle-free process.”
Kevin said it took the Embassy officials four days to release the mortuary passport. “You must understand that these things are linked. I could not process or approach other offices without that particular paper. We had already planned the funeral in India for Russel and even the date was finalised. Any further delay would have changed the plans in India, which I did not want at all,” said an emotional Kevin.
In the wee hours of January 13, 2012, Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia hit a reef near the Islola del Giglio, and sank off the Tuscan Coast. The wreckage, said to be as colossal in scale as the Titanic’s, spared most of the 4,000 lives aboard the ship. Families of 32 were, inevitably, left to mourn.