Royals attend funerals as nation mourns gas victims

6th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 February 2005, MORELLA- Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia joined mourners at the funerals of 18 people who died in their sleep following a gas leak at a north-eastern mountain hostel.

7 February 2005

MORELLA- Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia joined mourners at the funerals of 18 people who died in their sleep following a gas leak at a north-eastern mountain hostel.

Senior politicians joined the royal couple and hundreds of mourners in paying their last respects to eleven men and seven women.

The dead, including five young members of a rock band, were killed by the fumes on Sunday in a mountain lodge at Todolella, a hamlet of just 136 people, after celebrating the 50th birthday party of a friend, Bartolome Meseguer.

Meseguer and his partner both survived the tragedy, the worst of its kind in Spain.

The pair, who had slept apart from those who died, were taken to hospital where officials described their condition as good.

The funerals took place in six close-knit villages dotted around the regional centre of Castellon, hundreds of locals ignoring the winter cold and narrow winding roads to make their way up into inhospitable mountainous terrain to see the dead laid to rest.

At Morella, Felipe and Letizia took their places solemnly at the ancient Basilica Santa Maria as a trio of coffins were borne high on grim-faced pall bearers' shoulders.

As those paying their past respects were called on "to pray for the souls of our brothers" and reminded that "death is part of the cycle of life."

The church in the small hamlet, perched high on a hill some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the tragedy, was packed to overflowing with some 400 people inside and as many again thronging the entry to hear the service relayed by loudspeaker.

The regional government declared a day of official mourning for the victims.

Javier Gallart, who had been at the party but came away around midnight, earlier told local television he had had the grim task of returning to help identify some of the bodies.

"I went up to the kitchen, where we had been chatting just hours earlier.

"It was terrible. Just think, I had been up there with them.

"Some were on the ground, others in their beds. They were dead. I had to identify a few," he said, grim-faced.

Preliminary investigations suggested a butane gas container had either leaked or been improperly closed, causing carbon monoxide poisoning.

"They wouldn't have even noticed anything. There is no smell, nothing," explained Jose Antonio Garcia Andrade, heading the forensic investigation.

"It is not entirely clear exactly how this happened, while the autopsies are still under way," added regional official Juan Maria Calles Moreno.

"It seems the heating may not have been working in the hostel, and someone there appears to have brought along their own heating source.

"The regional authorities are investigating and will leave no stone unturned in their inquiries to get to the bottom of this. Medical and psychological aid is on offer to the relatives."

One distraught mother "We are all human beings. Please leave us be with our thoughts
for a moment."

Investigations were still under way in nearby Valencia to determine the exact circumstances behind the incident.

Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Fernandez de la Vega and Minister for Public Administration Jordi Sevilla were among top politicians attending the Morella funerals.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had an engagement in Madrid, sent his deepest condolences to families of the victims.

Including Saturday's disaster, 62 people have died in 14 similar incidents in Spain since 1991.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news




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