Canadian students who survived ship sinking in Brazil return home

Canadian students who survived ship sinking in Brazil return home

By Susanna Kelley, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - There was “an awful lot of joy” at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Monday when a group of Canadian students who survived the sinking of a sailing ship off Brazil last week returned home.

Relieved parents, relatives and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent received the students as they flew in from Sao Paulo at dawn. “There is an awful lot of joy in that room as the families get together,” said Kent after watching the emotional reunion.

“There is a great sense of appreciation and satisfaction that everything came together very well.”

The 42 Canadian high school and university students were among the 64 people aboard the Concordia, which sank in rough seas, some 500 kilometres off the Brazilian coast Wednesday.

The shipwreck left them adrift on the ocean for two nights.

The Brazilian navy, which took 19 hours to respond to the emergency, has defended its action, calling it standard procedure.

On Monday, Kent refused to comment on the issue.

“But it brings to mind the quote, ‘the sea is so great, my boat is so small’ … today is a day to celebrate that not a soul was lost,” Kent said.

The students were taking part in the Class Afloat program, run by the West Island College International of Lunenburg, N.S.

Students from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Europe and the West Indies were also aboard the ship.

The vessel was on a five-month voyage that allows students in Grades 11 and 12 and the first year of college to study while sailing around the world.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the Class Afloat program said he’s not worried about lawsuits stemming from the sinking of the Concordia but would not say if the company has consulted a lawyer.

Nigel McCarthy told reporters at Pearson that it was 16 hours after the ship sank that the company even became aware there was a problem, and at that point only knew an emergency beacon had been set off.

Copyright © 2010 Canadian Press

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