Pinoy seaman in Atlantic plane crash was supposed to go home
MANILA, Philippines - It was supposed to be a 12 hour-flight for Arden Jugueta from Brazil to France where he planned to take a connecting flight and be reunited with his wife in Manila.
But the Filipino seafarer, whose vessel was docked in Rio de Janeiro, never reached Paris.
Just three hours after Air France flight 447 left the Galeao International Airport in Brazil, the twin-engine, long-haul, medium-capacity passenger jet, vanished in the Atlantic Ocean, the Brazilian Air Force said.
Search and rescue operations were immediately sent by Brazil, France and Spain near the island of Fernando de Noronha, where the aircraft last sent a distress signal. But even before the first body of the passenger of Air France flight 447 was fished out of the icy depths of the Atlantic, the Philippine government has already braced for the worst.
"Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo extends the DFA's deepest condolences to Mrs. Miguela Jugueta, the wife of Mr. Jugueta, and his family," the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
If all 228 people were killed, it would be the deadliest commercial airline disaster since Nov. 12, 2001, when an American Airlines jetliner crashed in the New York City borough of Queens during a flight to the Dominican Republic, killing 265 people, an Associated Press report said.
Relatives have already trooped to the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport where their loved ones were supposed to meet with them on Monday morning. But they might wait just a little longer.
On board the flight were 61 French citizens, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, nine Chinese and nine Italians. A lesser number of citizens from 27 other countries also were on the passenger list, including two Americans.
Aviation investigators were pondering on several theories on how the high-tech aircraft plunged into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after reporting bad weather in its path.
In a separate AP report, Brazil's largest airline, TAM, released a statement late Monday saying that pilots flying one of its commercial flights from Paris to Rio spotted what they thought was fire in the ocean along the Air France jet's route. [See: Investigators ponder what happened to Air France]
The first signs of the wreckage were spotted by Brazillian officials on Tuesday: An airplane seat, a fuel slick and pieces of white debris scattered over three miles of open ocean marked the site in the mid-Atlantic. [See: Debris confirms crash of Air France Flight 447]
Meanwhile, Air France officials are ensuring the loved ones of the missing passengers that they are doing their best to provide support for relatives and friends.
"Medical and psychological assistance involving 15 specialist physicians has been set up at Paris-Charles de Gaulle 2 and Rio de Janeiro airports," Air France said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders held a prayer ceremony in Paris for the 228 souls of the ill-fated aircraft.
Choirs from various churches in France as well as the official choral group from Air France sang hymns to relatives and friends who have waited for their loved ones to return.
And at the end of the ceremony, the poem "Footsteps in the Sand" by Brazilian poet Ademar de Barros was read echoing what relatives of the 228 passengers need at the moment:
"One night, I dreamed a dream, I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord. When the last scene of my life shot before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life.
This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma. "Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, You leave me".
He whispered “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV with AP