Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Joseph Gomez, 64, father of St. Anthony's Shrine suicide blast victim Berlington Joseph Gomez, 33, mourns next to the coffins of his son Berlington, grandson and daughter-in-law, at his house in Colombo on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.


Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

Updated 6 min 32 sec ago
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Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

ATHENS: The bodies of three men were recovered near the Greek island of Poros on Tuesday after a private helicopter crashed through power cables and into the sea, state agency ANA said.
Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said a total of three people were believed to have been on board — a Greek pilot and two foreign passengers.
ANA said the two foreigners were Russian.
A local official had earlier said the crash knocked out power across the small island.
“There was a great flash and the helicopter’s fuel exploded,” deputy Poros mayor Yiorgos Koutouzis told state TV ERT.
“It hit power cables around a 100 meters (yards) from the sea,” he said, adding: “The island is now without electricity.”
The helicopter fell shortly after takeoff from Galata, the nearest coastal village on the mainland facing Poros, 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Athens.
The coast guard said search crews, including six of its vessels, divers and a rescue helicopter, were examining the wreckage site.
Poros is a small picturesque island off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese that is popular with holidaymakers.