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Missing Mumbai sailor Russel Rebello's family finds closure at last

With the discovery of Russel Rebello's body, almost three years after the cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground in January 2012, the Rebello family of Naigaon can finally bid him goodbye

For close to three years, Naigaon’s Rebello family had been unable to even grieve in peace for 32-year-old Russel Rebello, who was aboard the Costa Concordia cruise liner that ran aground off the Tuscan coast in January 2012. But, on Monday, the body of the last ‘missing’ victim of the tragedy was found, giving the family a measure of reprieve.

Also read: I don't want to lose my son, says Russel Rebello's mother

Russel Rebello

Russel’s mother Gladys said she was grateful to God that she could finally pray for her son’s soul.

Kevin Rebello (40), Russel’s elder brother, said the development came 1,025 days (2 years 9 months and 21 days) after the disaster. The body was found on the eighth deck of the ship, lodged underneath some furniture, clad in jeans, t-shirt, white socks and tennis shoes. An ID card in the pocket of the denims helped rescuers identify him.

Kevin Rebello
Sea of trouble: Kevin, brother of Russel Rebello, looks on at the stricken ship in Giglio Porto, Italy, in March 2012, and (above) holds a pic of his brother. File pics/Getty Images

Italy
Speaking to mid-day from Milan, Italy, Kevin said, “I was in a client meeting around 12.30 pm (Italian time), when I saw a missed call from the Civil Protection Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Italy.

Also read: 100 days later, I have nothing for my mom, says Russel Rebello's brother

Russel Rebello
Kevin Rebello shows a picture of his brother on January 19, 2012, on the Isola del Giglio, where the cruise liner Costa Concordia went aground. File pic/GettyImages

“I called back and the officer on the other side said, ‘Kevin, we have good news for you. Finally, in one of the cabins, they (search team) have located a body under some furniture. We are very sure it is Russel’s, and are waiting for the military police to come and take over.’

At rest, at last: A file photo of the Rebello family shows Russel’s parents, Frank and Gladys, and wife, Vilma at their residence
At rest, at last: A file photo of the Rebello family shows Russel’s parents, Frank and Gladys, and wife, Vilma at their residence

“My legs started trembling and, for a moment, I was in a state of shock. But, somehow I controlled my emotions and decided not to utter even a word or react before the clients. Once they left, I broke down. I am anxious to get my brother back home in India for his last rites. It has been a three-year-long wait.”

Also read: One year later, hope sinks for sailor Russel Rebello's family

The officer described the clothes and ID card found on the body and the description matched the details Kevin had furnished to the search team after the 2012 incident.

Kevin said he had no clue about the condition of the body, other than the fact that it was found to be intact, unlike that of the missing Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichim, whose body was found in parts in July 2013.

The military police have moved the body from the ship to St Martin Medical Institute in Genoa, and after legal formalities it would be transported to the military hospital in Rome, where the autopsy and DNA tests would be done. Kevin’s DNA sample is already with the forensics experts, so they can match it with that extracted from the body to conclude if it is Russel’s. “Russel was the only one of the ill-starred passengers missing till now. They have found his ID card, though the DNA results are not out. I will be going to Rome, which is 400 km from Milan, as the authorities there have called me to complete the documentation,” Kevin said.

Also read: Russel's shoes help Rebellos find closure

“I had almost accepted that the whole ocean, anywhere in the world, was part of Russel’s tomb, but this illusion has now changed, thanks to the search team that helped me come to grips with reality,” said Kevin.

“Had it not been for the support and prayers from people across the world on social media who were just aliens to me, my family and Russel, it would have been impossible to find Russel’s remains. The incident has transformed me as a person. Even today I feel tremors beneath my legs when I recall those days I had spent on the island as families were frantically waiting to hear news of their missing loved ones on board the ship.”

Asked if the cruise ship has given any compensation to the family, Kevin said, “Those things will happen now, as the body has been found. But honestly I haven’t bothered to make any inquiry on that front, as my priority was to get my brother home to India.”

Kevin has broken the news to his parents, Gladys (66) and Frank (72). “My parents usually got any news about Russel through the media first, but this time I broke it to them. I am hopeful that in the next three or four weeks, all legal formalities will be completed and I will be able take my brother home,” he said.

Mumbai
Back at home, ever since they learnt that their son’s body has been found, Frank and Gladys are inconsolable.

“I had been asking God where my Russel was since the day of the incident, and it took Him three years to answer my prayers. I am at peace now. I have lost my son and that is a fact. We have to live with this truth for the rest of our lives. I am thankful to God that I can at least lay my son to rest and pray for his soul, which I could not do until now,” Gladys told mid-day.

Also read: The Rebello family survives on unsinkable hope

She added, “Kevin had spoken to me on Monday evening and told me that Russel’s body had been found and the DNA reports are awaited. I do not know anything more. I am waiting for him to give me an update.”

Bangalore
Vikram Pinto, Russel’s brother-in-law who is in Bangalore with Russel’s wife Vilma (32) and child Rhys (6), said, “I received a phone call from Kevin on Monday evening and he informed us of the latest update on Russel. I will return shortly to Mumbai with my sister and nephew. Our prayers are heard, and we hope we can lay Russell to rest at last.”

The disaster
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, Italy.

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, however, inevitably left to mourn.

The ship is currently in Genoa, Italy.


Over the years, mid-day has extensively covered the fallout of the tragic incident in which Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia sank off the Island of Giglio, Tuscany, in Italy on January 13, 2012

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