Paraná tragedy | It will be 12 years since the most painful event in missionary sports

The Paraná tragedy began after leaving from the Pacú Cuá club, in Encarnación, at least 40 people, including swimmers and rowers, were dragged by the current towards one of the barges that were anchored in Paraguayan waters, the wind and the current decided that athletes remain in history.

Mauro Patricio Bacigalupi, Víctor Sessa, Fernando Solé Mases, Eugenio Raúl Seró, Sebastián Ruzecki, Nicolás Levequi, Manuel Leiva, and Luis Saide, lost their lives on the most painful day in the history of missionary sports.

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The eight deceased people left by the Paraná tragedy.

Today, 12 years later, the wound is still open and that is why family and friends still fondly remember those who lost their lives in one of their passions, which was being in contact with water.

Franco Bacigalupi, brother of Mauro who died in the Paraná tragedy, said: “I remember perfectly that the day of the tragedy I was with my father removing a car and once we got it out we found out that there had been an accident in the Paraná river. From that moment, the whole odyssey of going to the port began where there were already shocked people, collapsed people who did not know what was happening and on top of that it was flooded”.

In addition, “the prefecture arrived with broken boats and with boys who were swimming and who were crying. At that moment, the first ambulance arrived that took the first deceased and from there they began to look for them, “he added.

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Mauro’s photo.

In this sense, in a conversation with Misiones Online, the current director of Aquatic Safety stated: “That day we wanted to find all the swimmers because when the day ended there were missing competitors (seven) and we did not know how many more were in the water. The situation was really difficult, above all. begin then to think that they had died because they told us that they were on the coast when in reality they were not there. I even remember that there was a storm and we had to stop in order to protect ourselves and then continue with the search”. He also said that that night they slept in the port. “We had the anguish of thinking if they died and at the same time the illusion of thinking of a miracle,” he continued.

Regarding what happened on January 16, 2010, Franco Bacigalupi explained: “I think it happened from a kind of funnel. It started when the crossing was made because it was always carried out that way with the justification that it is for the love of sport when in reality the most important thing is safety and health. It was always done wrong until the tragedy of Paraná arrived”.

paraná tragedy
The day of the tragedy.

“The organization and the person in charge were not good for the task. Prefecture that day was not up to the circumstances as security is seen today. In addition, many people were young people who signed up for the day without prior organization, others did not know how to row and the weather situation changed from a cloudy day to a major storm with very particular wind and waves. This especially aggravated the boys who did not know how to row, “said Mauro’s brother.

In this regard, he maintained that “nothing was going to happen to the swimmer in the water, but the problem was the canoes that turned and the obstacles they had in place, which were the barges, and therefore, they could not swim. against. We always say that there was a series of events and that there was no reading ability to complete the activity”.

“The Paraná tragedy could have been avoided, unfortunately human beings learn from mistakes. But, when they happen, we don’t anticipate the facts because we believe that nothing will ever happen. In sport there is always a before and after in regards to safety, protocols, equipment, among others”, he asserted.

Likewise, he stressed that “there are really avoidable issues as it was that day, that is, not having people trained for the sporting event, people who read the conditions and not be afraid of failing, because it is essential to have a good staff. ”.

“That day 8 people died who were examples of life and sports. That’s why we relatives remember them because we have an empty chair. We are 12 years after what happened but for me that was yesterday,” he said with his “heart in his mouth.”

To conclude, he pointed out: “Today it is understandable if few testimonies are obtained about what happened because the relatives or the competitors who survived have a hard time remembering that day.”

On the other hand, he stated that when the trial began, most of the boys said the same thing. “They said: “the barge hit me, I began to see everything dark, I had no more air and I gave myself up and out of nowhere I managed to get out the back.” Not to mention the noises they heard under the water. Although we have 8 families who lost loved ones, there are many people who underwent important psychological treatment and it was difficult for them to return to the river or even bathe. Of the 47 swimmers, almost half went under the barge.

Other relatives remembered Mauro again was Laura Berra, his mother. “The month of January begins and each year one begins to remember everything that was experienced 12 years ago. Although more than a decade passed, one remembers it as if it were the first day. At the family level, it is not very pleasant to live these days, ”he expressed in a heartfelt way.

For the accident of the “crossing of the Paraná” there were two convicted, the prefecturian Jorge Antonio Lezcano and Hugo “Tyson” Alfonso. Regarding justice, he maintained that “those responsible were released. Lezcano was released after four years and a little while Tyson was released in a year and a half since they take courses in prison and therefore his sentence was reduced. These are issues that go through a trial, serve the sentence and finish. They continue their lives while they destroy our family. They never recognized that.”

On the other hand, he said that the Bacigalupi family, together with other relatives, celebrates a mass every January 16 for the eternal rest of their son. “That’s how we remember him.”

On Sunday, January 16 of this year, the mass for those who died in the Paraná tragedy will be held in the Sagrada Familia parish at 10:00 with Father Alberto Barros. In this sense, Franco Bacigalupi pointed out that “everyone who wishes to participate is invited. In addition, all the people who attend the mass can collaborate with diapers or powdered milk to deliver to Cáritas”. This is done every January 16.

One of the survivors of the Paraná tragedy

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Paula Parra, one of the survivors.

Paula Parra, in communication with Misiones Online, told how she lived that tragic day. “That January 16, 2010 I started the day with the registration. Then, I got on the boat to go to Paraguay where the competition was starting. There we noticed that the river was a bit choppy. We warmed up and then they explained to us what the competition was going to be like”.

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The course of the competition.

Already in the waters of the Paraná River, he pointed out that “while I swam I always looked at my canoeist with whom I trained with his children. However, at one point I lost sight of Luis (his canoeist) but I saw his son Federico with his canoe paddling in the opposite direction to the competition and that surprised me and I stopped swimming. Also, at that moment I looked to my right and the barge was already on top of me”.

In that sense, he asserted that he was desperate and expressed: “I started to yell at Federico so that he would throw the threaded model life preserver at me. When I grabbed it, I put it next to my head as the waves and current hit me against the barge. Therefore, I bounced back several times. Back then I was kind of at the front of the barge and I bounced until I was in the middle of two barges. There, the current was much stronger and the life preserver left me and I sank… to the point that I looked up and saw a rope, I held on to it and stayed still for a while.”

In that aspect, he recalled “with a thousand hearts”: “The moment I was under the water was very desperate and the only thing I thought was that I was about to die because when I was 17 years old I did not know that it was a barge. I thought it was a ship that hit me”.

“It felt like it was like a sucker because when I entered the middle of the two barges, it was a suction because it took me directly to be under the water for an indefinite time, Paula Parra explained. “The only thing I thought about was God I asked not to die that day and thanks to Him I managed to get out,” he said with Faith.

Once she managed to get out, Mauro Bacigalupi together with Amore, they take her out of the place with a jet ski and take her to Prefectura. “The officers took me to a boat which did the rescues. I was one of the first,” he said.

On the other hand, she said: “I love the water so since I am a physical education teacher, I teach in the water every summer. In 2013, I became a lifeguard. Around there in the first years after the tragedy, I had some fear of the river on days when it was very windy. Currently, Paula Parra is 29 years old and today she can tell the story in the first person.

To conclude, he expressed: “The truth is that there are no words to say about what happened. Today I am lucky to be able to say that I managed to find the rope, I was saved and they rescued me. However, there are other families that January 16, 2010 was the worst day of their lives. It was a tragedy that could be avoided because that day, at the start of the competition, it was not in optimal conditions since there was a lot of wind, the river was somewhat choppy and the barges were not marked. No one told us that, that is, that there were those boats.”

Aldous McEwan

Aldous is a tech enthusiast and a traveller, who has completed his B.A in year 2018.

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