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Solidarity and Faith after the Death of 9 Girls from the Cumbres School in Santiago de Chile
A tragic bus accident ended the lives of 9 sophomore girls on a school trip. The entire educational community is united in an atmosphere of prayer and solidarity with their families.

Velorio en Chile
Youth from the Cumbres School of Santiago de Chile carry the coffins of the girls who died in the tragic accident.

Santiago de Chile.  September 1, 2008. A tragic bus accident claimed the lives of 9 Chilean girls who were on a school trip this past Friday, August 29. All sophomores between the ages of 15 and 16, the girls were students at the Cumbres School of Santiago, which is run by the Legionaries of Christ. 

Their names are Valentina Errázuriz, Magdalena Rodríguez, Maria de Los Ángeles Costa, Elisa Contreras, Magdalena Echeverría, Bernardita Valenzuela, Bernardita Barros, Eloísa Garreaud, and Maria Trinidad de la Carrera. Three additional girls are in grave condition at the local hospital. The rest of the students on the bus suffered light wounds.

The accident took place on a winding country road in the north of Chile at about 2:45 in the afternoon. As the bus came around a corner, the back end began skidding and slammed into the barrier on the side of the road. This caused the bus to tip over and roll several times before stopping only a short distance away from the edge of a ravine 200 meters deep.

Velorio en Chile
Thousands of people attended the Mass with the families and friends of the deceased girls.

The students were on a week-long school trip in the north of their country, visiting places like San Pedro de Atacama and the geysers of Tatio and Iquique. On the day of the accident, they were on their way to Arica to meet up with the other group of students who were in Calama. From there, they were going to return to Santiago. Four separate grades of girls took part in the trip, and each one had visited different places.

When the news was released in Santiago, students, alumni, teachers, and relatives of the Cumbres School gathered to make prayer chains and hold a vigil all through the night into the dawn.

On Saturday at noon, a prayer service was held in the school chapel with the bodies of the nine girls present. In the afternoon, there was a Mass that gathered 3,000 people, and the chapel was kept open for people to pray. The prayer vigil lasted until 2:00 in the morning the next day.

An emotional wake on Sunday, August 31

For those who attended, the wake was an experience of profound sorrow as almost 6,000 people came to express their love and solidarity to the parents of the nine deceased students.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by the auxiliary bishop of Santiago, Bishop Fernando Chomalí, along with 56 priests who concelebrated.

Father José Cárdenas, LC, the territorial director territorial of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi in Chile, gave the homily. He focused on how to give meaning to the tremendous loss, and affirmed that God had taken these young girls to draw them close to himself. “Their lives were pure as a lily,” he said. “During the short time they had in life, they shone abundantly. Their witness invites us to do good.” 

Close relatives of the students read the prayers of the faithful, and then Luís José Garreaud, a father of one of the victims, thanked the Cumbres School, the president of the Chilean Republic, Michelle Bachellet, the minister of education, Mónica Jiménez, and the authorities of Arica for their ongoing help.

The director of the girls’ branch of the Cumbres School, Miss Araceli Delgado, said that “in the midst of this great sorrow, there is a deep joy, which is the Lord’s peace.”

For his part, Fr John O’Reilly, LC, the school chaplain, said that the girls were not caught unprepared for the hour of death. “They were girls of great faith, angelic girls with marvelous stories,” he said. “There is pain and suffering,” he acknowledged, but added that “they were prepared to leave.” In fact, the girls had gone on a retreat together just two weeks before the bus accident.

Regnum Christi members from all over the world are uniting in prayer for the souls of the deceased girls, and for the consolation of their families. Please join us in offering your times of adoration, your rosaries, or your Masses for this intention.



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