Three months after the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia smashed into a rock off the coast of Italy on January 13, there is no sign of Mumbaikar Russel Rebello, the only Indian aboard the ship to have gone missing since the tragedy. As the DNA results of five bodies tested for identification after they were recovered recently from the wrecked ship are likely to be announced on April 16, Russel’s parents and relatives are experiencing a fresh bout of disquiet.
The five bodies were spotted on March 22. On March 26, they were removed from the ship and sent to the mortuary where the DNA examination was conducted. Speaking to MiD DAY from Milan in Italy, Kevin, Russel’s elder brother, confirmed the development. “The DNA test results have been delayed, as the authorities want to ensure that the corpses are identified correctly and handed over to the families. Since the bodies are in an extremely decomposed state – eaten up by fish and marine creatures – the identification is all the more difficult,” he said.
Kevin said that the civil protection officer had informed him of the delay in the DNA findings, which are usually completed within 7 to 10 days. “Earlier the forensic team was to match the DNA samples from the teeth of the deceased with those of the close blood relatives, whose samples have already been taken and preserved. Unfortunately, the test was not conclusive enough for the authorities,” Kevin said.
Talking about the meticulous care being undertaken to identify the corpses rightly, he said, “The forensic team is very particular about the testing procedure. The experts won’t identify any corpse until they get over 70 per cent of DNA samples matched. They have now decided to match the DNA from bone marrow and skin samples to identify the corpses. The work has already begun. I am told that by April 16, the results should be officially declared.”
After an ordeal of 90 days spent hoping for his brother’s return, Kevin said, “In his last moments, I can only imagine Russel still helping someone, someone out there who is now safe with their family, and carrying on with their dream in life. God bless them all and may they also help others in life.”
He said that April 10 was particularly agonising for his family members. It was Russel’s birthday, he would have turned 33, and his family was inconsolable that day. “My mother called me from India and asked, ‘Where is Russel?’ I had no answer to soothe her,” said Kevin. He also made a Facebook request to mark the 90 days since Russel went missing, asking people all over the world to light a virtual candle on April 13 at 10.00 pm, the time when the ship hit the rock off a Tuscan island.