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Güiria Shipwreck | In a tragic confusion, a family buried the wrong victim

The corpse of Jose Carlos San Vicente Potella turned up only after his family had mistakenly buried Ramon Ordaz. Both men died in the tragic Güiria shipwreck that took 33 lives two weeks ago. Decomposition complicates ID procedures in Sucre state.


The relatives of Jose Carlos San Vicente Potella went through the pain of buried a loved one, twice. Due to a mistake in the identification of the corpse, they buried the body of Ramón Ordaz on Saturday afternoon.

Pathologists made a mistake as Ordaz, 34 years old, San Vicente, 30, and a woman identified as Zulaina Gutierrez, 44, were all found Sunday morning. The total of victims in the Güiria shipwreck rise to 33.

It was only hours after the burial when authorities notified grieving relatives that an ID mistake had taken place in the worst such immigration event in Venezuelan history.

You must read Hunger drove Venezuelans to escape to Trinidad and Tobago

In Guiria, in the state of Sucre, bodies continue to appear at sea after the shipwreck reported on December 12 in an advanced state of decomposition after almost two weeks at sea, making it difficult to recognize the bodies.

The remains of Ramon Ordaz had physical characteristics similar to those of San Vicente Potella, which appeared hours later in an area that has not been specified by the authorities.

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Pathologists requested physical characteristics of San Vicente from his relatives. They compared the physiognomy, and the forensic doctor pointed out the corpse they were studying as Jose Carlos San Vicente Potella. They handed over the body, and the family buried it.

When they took the body out of the shed to take it to the cemetery, the inhabitants of Guiria began to talk about new shipwreck corpses get retrieved. At the same time, the relatives of Ramon Ordaz began suspecting that they received the wrong body to bury and went to the authorities.

“Then, in the afternoon, they moved a body to the dock. When the pathologists saw it, they realized that it also looked like the corpse they had already delivered. They called the family again and had them come to the shed to recognize him. The people realized that the victim had the same pants that Jose Carlos San Vicente wore the day he left Guiria for Trinidad, and that is how they identified him,” explained an inhabitant of Guiria who asked to protect his identity.

The tragedy in Guiria is not over: Neighbors protest the Maduro regime handling of the shipwreck and its aftermath. Photo: Cesar Toledo.

You must read A tattoo was the key to identifying Gabriela, one of the victims of the Güiria shipwreck

Finally, on the morning of December 20, the family of San Vicente buried his body after the pathologists made the corrections. Meanwhile, the family of Ramon Ordaz is crying over his grave.

Pathologists and relatives continue the tragic task of trying to identify the bodies of the shipwreck. Lizandro Patines Sanchez, 44, is one of the most recent additions to the tally.

Among the dead is a woman who was from the neighboring state of Nueva Esparta. She was Leopolda Marisol Manriquez Calzadilla, 45, who traveled to Guiria to board the fateful boat that would not take her to Trinidad and Tobago. She expected to be reunited with her two sisters there. Her body got recognized by her compadre.

“They have taken so much from us that we are not afraid to die at sea.” reads the banner in Guiria. The Venezuelan exodus gets expected to intensify in 2021, according to the UN. Photo: Cesar Toledo

Leopolda appeared on December 18 in the Punta Arena sector, located towards the Gulf of Irapa. Her relatives recognized her by the clothes she was wearing the day the boat left. Her remains also were buried in the cemetery of Güiria, in a common grave.

By ARI. Additional reporting by Yesenia García, writing by Jesymar Añez Nava.

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