|Pastors planning burial for smuggling victims|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jun 21, 2012
Eleven Haitians who drowned in Abaco waters last week will be buried following a service organized by a group of pastors, the Haitian Embassy and a funeral home.
Family members have positively identified only four victims, according to Haitian Ambassador Antonio Rodrigue.
Father Alain Laverne, lead spokesmen for the clergymen, said it is the moral obligation of the Haitian-Bahamian community to ensure that all the victims receive a proper burial.
“We in the Haitian community, along with the ambassador...have come together to make sure that those people, those victims have a decent funeral,” Laverne said at a press conference at Rock of Ages Funeral Home yesterday.
No date has been set for the service yet, but the pastors hope to have the funeral by next week Saturday.
Laverne said the tragedy has troubled the Haitian-Bahamian community.
Authorities said at least 11 people, including five children, died when the vessel ‘Cozy Time’ went down in waters off Crown Haven, North Abaco, on June 10.
There are seven known survivors. Twenty-eight people were said to be onboard the boat.
Police suspect the group was part of an illegal human smuggling operation that originated in Abaco.
“We are very devastated,” said Laverne, flanked by several pastors and a representative from the Haitian Embassy in Nassau.
“We are one body. If one member suffers we are [all] suffering. It’s hard to see our brothers and sisters perishing in such a tragic accident.”
He said while the victims reportedly paid money for illegal transport to the United States they were exploited by people who make a living off human smuggling.
“We’re hoping one day it (smuggling) would stop,” Laverne said. “Even though those people wanted to escape and paid their money, we have people in The Bahamas and the world whose job is smuggling people illegally.
“Government needs to step in and stop that because it is not fair. When we look at the children, they were in school and to see them now in the morgue is really hard.”
Laverne feared that survivors and families of the other dead passengers have not come forward because they do not want to be arrested.
“The investigation is still on and there are a lot of people who do not want to come out because they were arresting people, especially in Abaco,” said Laverne, pastor of Our Lady’s Catholic Church.
Police identified Haitian national Chancelaire Baptiste, 52, as the alleged captain of the boat. He is said to be a resident of Treasure Cay, Abaco, and is being sought by police for questioning.