MANAGUA – Foreign tourists who survived when their ship capsized off an idyllic Caribbean island were flown to mainland Nicaragua Sunday with the bodies of fellow passengers killed in the accident.
Thirteen people drowned when the small tourist ship capsized off the coast of Little Corn Island Saturday with 32 passengers on board, including Americans, Britons and Latin Americans.
All 13 killed were from Costa Rica, which declared a day of national mourning for Monday.
Nine bodies were flown to the Nicaraguan capital Managua from Big Corn Island, where the survivors and cadavers were taken after a frantic rescue operation by the Nicaraguan navy.
The Corn Islands, which sit about 70 km (45 miles) off the Nicaraguan coast, are remote outposts known for white-sand beaches and crystalline waters.
Some survivors of the accident broke down in tears on arrival at the Managua airport.
The bodies were loaded into ambulances and taken for autopsy.
Officials have not said whether the bodies of the other four victims have been recovered.
One survivor, a Costa Rican man, disputed the Nicaraguan authorities’ claim that the ship’s captain defied a storm alert.
“There have been false reports that the weather was bad,” he said, declining to give his name.
The airlifted survivors comprised 13 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two Britons and a Brazilian woman.
Three Nicaraguans were also aboard the ship — a passenger, the captain and his crewmate.
Media reports said the captain, who was also owner of the vessel, was arrested after being rescued, as authorities began an investigation.
The Nicaraguan government said President Daniel Ortega had ordered expedited autopsies so that the bodies could be repatriated Sunday to Costa Rica, whose relations with neighboring Nicaragua have been strained in recent months.