Minnesota couple missing in Italy cruise ship wreck
ST. PAUL A White Bear Lake, Minn., couple are two of an estimated 15 people still missing from Friday's cruise ship wreck off the coast of Italy, according to relatives and neighbors. Sarah Kim Heil of Hastings posted a Facebook message Sunday co...
A White Bear Lake, Minn., couple are two of an estimated 15 people still missing from Friday's cruise ship wreck off the coast of Italy, according to relatives and neighbors.
Sarah Kim Heil of Hastings posted a Facebook message Sunday confirming that her parents, Jerry and Barb Heil, were missing as the luxury cruise ship remained partially submerged off the Tuscan coast north of Rome.
"The (U.S.) embassy is reporting 120 Americans were on the ship," wrote Kim Heil, one of the couple's four adult children. "(Two) have been unaccounted for. Those two are my parents."
The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef or rocks, leaving at least five dead and about 70 injured. The tally of missing people dropped from about 60 on Saturday to about 15 on Sunday.
Officals said the missing included nine passengers and six crew members.
Rescue workers also found glimmers of hope Sunday. Among the survivors was a Korean couple on their honeymoon.
"We are still searching" for any bodies, said Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro, a spokesman for the coast guard, "but (also) in the hope that there might have been an air pocket" to allow the survival of others.
Rebecca Dodds, a State Department spokeswoman with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, cited privacy laws preventing her from commenting on specific cases such as the Heils'.
"However, I can confirm that we are still trying to locate two U.S. citizens who were listed on the ship's manifest," she wrote
in an email to the Pioneer Press. "We are in touch with their families and providing all possible assistance."
As search crews continue to look for the missing, the Heils' neighbors in White Bear Lake haven't given up.
"I'm praying for hope," said neighbor Jeannine Jaworski, who has known the Heils for about 15 years. "Until you hear for real, you have to go with hope."
The Heils' blue ranch-style home on Mayfair Avenue was dark Sunday night, but neighbors shed light on the energetic couple, both about 70 years old.
"They are the couple you want to grow old to be," Jaworski said. "If I were to need them, I would never hesitate to call."
Next-door neighbor Mark Knutson described Jerry Heil as an avid gardener who would give lawn-care tips and football kicking advice to Knutson's son Ben. Barb Heil, a cancer survivor, would share fudge with them over the holidays, Knutson said.
"They wanted people to succeed," Knutson said. "And I just can't believe it."
As active parishioners at the Church of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, the congregation held the Heils in its prayers during Sunday Mass. Fellow parishioner Barbara Stalsberg said that Jerry is active in the church's pro-life group and that Barb is a volunteer and coordinator for preparing and serving meals to disadvantaged people at the Family Services Center in Maplewood.
"Both are absolutely wonderful people and very involved with the parish," Stalsberg said. "They are very kind. If this is true that they are missing, then it's horrible."
Distributed by MCT Information Services