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Final flight for aviators

Serafina Silaitoga
Friday, March 09, 2018

THE vanua of Caumatalevu yesterday traditionally handed over the bodies of the late aviators — Merelesita Lutu and Iliesa Tawalo — to their respective families at the Labasa Airport.

Their coffins, with similar designs, were laid draped with traditional kuta mats (straw grass mats) of Macuata near the row of chairs — where they last took pictures before departing for Savusavu on that fateful Monday.

Filomena Katonivere, the wife of Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere led a group of women from Macuata to cover the coffins with kuta mats and flowers as a sign of respect.

In traditionally handing over the bodies, provincial administrator Semi Kuru, while presenting a tabua told their families that it was indeed a sad moment for the nation when the two young aviators perished at Delaikoro after the crash of the Cessna 172 aircraft they were in.

He thanked their families for nurturing the two young people whose plight had affected many after the tragic incident. About 100 people made up of strangers, students, sympathisers, government officials and relatives gathered at the airport to farewell the two.

Police and soldiers then carried the coffins to the plane.

Merelesita's elder sister Alisi Lutu personally thanked the soldiers and police officers as she shook hands with them before departure.

Commissioner North Jovesa Vocea thanked everyone who participated in the search and rescue operations, including the villagers.

Last week, he visited Dogoru villagers and presented them with cartons of food as a token of appreciation.

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