Bodies of Honduras boat victims arrive on land for ID

The bodies of 27 people who died when a fishing boat sank off Honduras returned to port where relatives and forensics experts awaited Thursday, a day after the 70-ton vessel went down in bad weather in the Caribbean.

After the cadavers arrived, some family members were able to identify their loved ones. The bodies were taken from boats to an area guarded by the military.

“We want a rapid process of handover for the bodies,” said Lisandro Rosales, minister of the Permanent Commission on Emergencies.

Earlier Thursday, when the bodies were still on the high seas, armed forces spokesman José Domingo Meza said some had begun decomposing.

A military plane shuttled 27 empty coffins from Tegucigalpa, the capital, to the remote area in northeastern Honduras.

“We deeply regret the shipwreck of our compatriots in Gracias a Dios” province, President Juan Orlando Hernández tweeted. “All our solidarity with their families.”

The president added that authorities were coordinating operations of rescue and aid for victims and their families.

The Capt. Waly sank Wednesday in bad weather in the Caribbean near Cayo Gorda, a cay about 75 miles (120 kilometers) offshore.

The dead included the vessel’s captain, a cook, a crewman, 19 lobster divers and five cay residents. Six people were said to be missing, and 58 were rescued.

Izza Alvarado, head of the Forensic Medicine agency, said a team of experts had been sent to the area to facilitate handover of the bodies to their loved ones.

Merchant Marine chief Juan Carlos Rivera said the cause was under investigation.

“Our authority is not to find those responsible,” Rivera said. “What we are looking for, in essence, is what were the primary causes and to avoid that this kind of situations happen again.”

According to photos, the Capt. Waly apparently put to sea loaded with small skiffs from which the fishermen work.

Authorities said Wednesday that another fishing vessel had sunk or capsized in the same area, but all 49 men aboard survived.