|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
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.
|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.
wake on Sunday, August 31
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
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.
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.