UPDATE 4:55 p.m., Tuesday, April 17: The Heil family has entered a final post on its family blog site, stating it "move forward" now that Gerald and Barbara's bodies have been identified among those recovered last March among the wreck of the Costa Concordia.
"We will now be able to move forward and bring them home to rest. The rescue and recovery crew on the island of Giglio have been relentless in their mission to find the missing and have given us hope through this whole process. We cannot thank them enough for continuing to risk their lives in an effort to find our parents. Our hearts go out to the two families that are still missing loved ones. We will continue to hope and pray for closure for those families. We will not stop praying and following the news until they have found their loved ones as well. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
We have so many people to thank. We want to thank everyone in Italy who helped us find our parents and treated us with hospitality. Thanks to our friends, colleagues, neighbors, family and loved ones who were always there for us. Thanks to all those who we have never met who sent us words of encouragement and prayer.
We would like to thank the media for respecting our privacy. This blog entry will be our last post and form of communication with the media. We are very grateful for the wonderful articles and stories you did on our parents. They were very special people and you shared this in a respectful manner. We know our parents are together and are happy. We look forward to the day when we can all be together again."
The family of a Minnesota couple believe to have died in the Costa Concorida cruiseliner accident finally has closure, as Italian officials have finally identified the bodies of Gerald and Barbara Heil among those recovered off the coast of Giglio, Italy.
The Associated Press confirmed the identification of the White Bear Lake couple early Tuesday morning in Italy.
It is presumed 32 people–including the parents of teacher Aaron Heil–died in the accident, which occurred more than three months ago on Friday, Jan. 13.
A memorial service in honor of Gerald and Barbara Heil was held in February.
According to the Associated Press, the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which was carrying 4,200 people, including 120 Americans, ran aground when it hit rocks on a Friday night near the island of Giglio off the Italian coast, and ended resting on its side.
The captain of the ship has been arrested and charged in Italy, and is under house arrest. It's believe he sailed the ship too close to the Tuscan Coast and deviated from his course to do so.
According to an article that appeared on the Huffington Post, Aaron Heil gave the Associated Press a statement from the family in the days immediately following the accident.
"We are waiting patiently for the rescuers to safely try to find our parents," it said. "Our prayers and thoughts are with our parents; those others that are still missing and their families; and the brave rescuers. We are working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Italy and are confident that everything is being done to find our parents."
Sarah Heil, the Heil’s daughter, told WBBM radio in Chicago that her parents had been looking forward to their 16-day vacation.
"They raised four kids and sent them all to private school, elementary to college, so they never had any money," Sarah Heil said. "So when they retired, they went traveling. And this was to be a big deal–a 16-day trip. They were really excited about it."
Rescue workers have searched the ship high and low, using explosive devices to access cabins and robotic cameras for other areas while searching for the 32 missing. To date, 30 have been found. A passenger and a ship employee are still unaccounted for.
The Heil Family used a blog to keep friends and media outlets updated on the search for Jerry and Barb, writing their final post back on Feb. 15, days before a huge memorial service in White Bear Lake.
"We continue to try and follow the example set forth by our parents as we accept God’s plan," they wrote.