TEANECK Funeral services were held on Sunday and Monday for 1′ victims of last week’s bus crash in Chile. Robert Neil Rubin and Barbara Rubin, the parents of Larry Rubin of this township, were among them, and their funeral was held on Monday in Metuchen. (See page 60.)
The 1′ victims, part of a 64-person B’nai B’rith group on a 14-day Celebrity Cruise Lines jaunt around South America, were returning to the ship after visiting Lauca National Park in Arica last Wednesday when their bus fell 300 feet down a mountainside. Two other American passengers, as well as the Chilean tour guide and driver, were injured.
Gaia Waisbrod of Tenafly helps clear away debris left by Hurricane Katrina. PHOTO courtesy of solomon schechter regional high school
Initial reports said the bus swerved to avoid an oncoming truck, but Chilean officials suggested last Thursday that the driver may have fallen asleep.
Ten of the passengers lived in the Ponds, a retirement community in Monroe Township, and the other two were from Stamford, Conn. They ranged in age from 63 to 76.
About a dozen family members of the victims went to Chile to identify the bodies. The bodies were sent home to the United States last Friday in a silent motorcade in Chile escorted by police, a rabbi, and the relatives.
The victims from the Ponds were identified as Marvin Bier, 79; Shirley Bier, 76; Marian Diamond, 75; Maria Eggers, 71; Hans Eggers, 7′; Carole Ruchelman, 63; Robert Rubin, 7′; Barbara Rubin, 69; Frieda Kovar, 74; and Arthur Kovar, 67. Linda Greenfield, 63, and Ira Greenfield, 67, were from Stamford, Conn.
The two surviving Americans Harold Ruchelman and Bernard Diamond, both 68 and from Monroe Township were released from the hospital last Friday to accompany the bodies of their wives back to the United States.
Rabbi Leibel Miller of the Sacred Jewish Burial Society of Florida accompanied cruise line officials to Chile last Wednesday evening and assisted the victims and their families, said Lynn Martenstein, vice president for corporate communications of Celebrity Cruise Lines.
The Millennium ship captain and cruise director met that day with 50 other members of the B’nai B’rith group who had not gone on the fatal bus trip, then informed the rest of the ship’s passengers of the accident, Martenstein said. They met again with the group the following morning.
B’nai B’rith group members were given the option of returning to the United States, but all decided to continue to the next port in Lima, Peru. The cruise is scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday.
The cruise line had a chartered plane standing by in Arica to return the victims to the United States and accommodate family members.
Numerous Jewish organizations, including B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, sent South American representatives to the scene to help the families and survivors.
"We are shocked, stunned, and saddened by this news," said Joel Kaplan, president of B’nai B’rith International.
The B’nai B’rith members had booked the Lauca excursion separately, and the tour was not affiliated with the cruise line, Martenstein said. The tour was not licensed, according to Chilean officials.
"At this moment, all of us share the pain and anguish of this terrible event," said Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises. "We are devastated."
An administrator at the Ponds said the South American trip had been organized independently of the Ponds but was geared toward its residents.
"They were very well known, very well liked, and very active," Eileen Marcus, community manager of The Ponds, said of the victims. "People are just in shock. It’s a very close-knit community and this is affecting all of them."
Grief counselors from the local Jewish Family Services were at the Ponds last Thursday.
Several synagogues in New Jersey planned memorials for the victims. The Chabad Jewish Center in Monroe held a memorial service last Thursday evening.
"What can you say?," Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky said. "There are no words for a day like today."
The Jewish Standard contributed to this report.