“I had to be in his place”, says the colleague of the boatswain who died in Messina

«Gaetano was the sea …». To speak is Salvatore Vadalà, boatswain of Caronte & Tourist. Instead of Gaetano Puleo, on board the Elio, he could have been there. In fact, he had to be there. And with these words, and the agony in his heart, remembers his colleague, the friend he lost in the tragic accident that took place two days ago during the docking phases at the Nuremberg pier. “Gaetano was the sea”. And the sea took it away …

Messina, tragedy on board the Elio ship: boatswain loses his life in an accident

“Today I went to accompany my daughter to school – says the boatswain Salvatore – and while I was going, I thought that I might not be next to her”. With his hands in his face Salvatore thought that “destiny is sometimes inescapable and cruel, it takes away the best people”. Gaetano and Salvatore were hired, about 30 years ago, almost at the same time in what was then the Tourist Ferry Boat. Gaetano took up service only a few years after Salvatore, and had recently become a boatswain. “Usually the last promoted are those who replace those who are missing, who go more to the aid of the others, but Gaetano would have done it anyway, he lived for work and for his family”.

When, two days ago, Salvatore answered the call he never wanted to receive, he couldn’t believe it, his breath broke, he didn’t have a faint voice.

“Puleo is dead.” Three words, the tragedy, the sense of guilt.

«I was frozen. My daughter, who was next door, saw me turn white, tremble. I felt emptied inside. Never, ever, could I believe that it had happened to him, precisely he who, at work, was meticulous, prudent. In these hours I have tried to give myself a thousand explanations, the Elio ship is different from the others in the fleet, it is more complex, to stay on board you practically need a degree. But the more time passes, the more I think that what happened to Gaetano is a tragic fatality, which at times none of us can do much against fate ».

The last, alive, I remember Salvatore has of Gaetano is precisely that of someone who was thirsty to learn: «Not even twenty days ago, while I was on duty, he asked me for advice, because I am the one with the most experience on board. I tried to tell him the little secrets that are on that ship and it seems absurd that it happened to him. I can not believe”.

“I can’t believe it” Salvatore keeps repeating, also because that morning he was supposed to be on duty on board the Elio and, instead, he asked for a permit. The first substitute could not. So it happened to Gaetano. Those cursed sliding doors of life.
“I can’t believe it,” he repeats again, while remembering who Gaetano was and where he came from: “Gaetano was the sea, he lived for the sea, he grew up with the sea, he was the sea in all its essence. Like me, he came from a coastal village and those who live in front of the sea have an indissoluble bond with it. We had known each other for more than thirty years and there are many anecdotes, many moments we lived together, he was an incredible person, as a man, as a sailor, a great friend. He was very much in love, crazy about his job – Salvatore continues to tell us – and he was first of all a special colleague, always ready to help others in any situation, always ready to give advice especially to newcomers, it seems absurd that it really happened. to him because he was very careful. We, after all, are like a family ».

The seafaring profession is by no means simple and for those who do not know it, perhaps, it is also difficult to imagine how delicate it is to work on board a ship. But what could have happened to Gaetano that morning?

“When these things happen – says Salvatore – there is no explanation, they are moments in which you are in a point where you shouldn’t have been and maybe you don’t expect something serious to happen, then all of a sudden you realize I realize I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I believe that this has happened to Gaetano ».

Death of the boatswain on the ship Elio in Messina, two suspects

Whatever the investigative findings will be – however, the top management of Caronte & Tourist let us know – we will always be by the side of the family and we will not let him lack our support ». Salvatore too, as well as all his colleagues, at this moment, would only like to embrace the Puleo family: «We are sure that the company will not leave them alone, Gaetano’s son, among other things, is an aspiring seafarer. My thoughts, but also that of all my colleagues go to his children and his wife, let’s imagine how much they can be destroyed, he misses the person they love most, the most dear in the world, there are no words that can give him comfort, but maybe Gaetano will do it from up there, as he did with us too. With his sunshine, with his frankness. He was a great man – continues Salvatore with a broken voice – a very special man ».

© All rights reserved

This post is also available in: English