ELAVOOR: Thousands paid homage on Wednesday to the 15 students and three teachers of St. Antony's UP School who lost their lives in the Thattekkad boat capsize on Tuesday evening.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who rushed to Kerala from New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon, led the State in paying respect to the dead.
People from various parts of Ernakulam district thronged the school from 6 a.m. to pay their last respects to the dead. The ambulances carrying the bodies arrived at the school at 10.15 a.m. The bodies were placed in a `pandhal' set up on the school campus.
Francis Parappuram, manager of the school, said: "One-hundred-and-seven students had signed up for the trip, but only 106 turned up.
"My children told the boat driver that water had percolated into the boat," said Fr. Parappuram, whose farewell party (he is moving to a new parish in North Paravur) was scheduled for Wednesday.
Annie, a relative of Sebin who died in the accident, was struggling to console Sebin's mother, Mary. "He was the youngest of their three children. We could do nothing to save his life," she said.
Jose, husband of Annie, a teacher at the school who died in the accident, fainted when her body was brought to the pandal. "She joined the school in June last." They have two children.
Heart-rending scenes were witnessed when the bodies of the twins Amrita and Aswathi were brought to the venue. "Who will replace their lives," asked Joshua, a local resident. "Rescue operations got delayed. Why did the authorities fail to act immediately," asked another resident.
The police had a tough time controlling the crowd that stood in long queues for more than five hours. The funeral of teacher Annie was held at St. Antony's Church in the evening. Hundreds gathered for the funeral of Robin Raphael and Mathew Simon at St. Mary's Church in Elavoor and St. Peter's Church in Peechanikadu respectively on Wednesday. The cremation of Amrita and Aswathi will be held on Thursday, said family members.