White Bear Lake couple missing in Italy cruise ship disaster

1:46 PM, Jan 16, 2012   |    comments
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  • Gerald and Barbara Heil/photo from St Pius X Church
  • Photo by Getty Images
  • Photo by Getty Images
  • Photo by Getty Images
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  • WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. - A couple from White Bear Lake are the last two Americans still unaccounted for after an Italian cruise ship crashed Friday.

    Family members issued a statement Monday confirming that Barbara and Gerald Heil of White Bear Lake, a suburb of St. Paul, are the two Americans missing.

    The statement, read by a family spokesperson, says the family is working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Italy and that they are confident "everything is being done to find our parents."

    The U.S. Embassy to Italy has posted the couple's picture on its Facebook page, asking for help in finding out what happened to them.

    Gerald and Barbara Heil's daughter Sarah Heil told WBBM Newsradio of Chicago that the American Embassy in Rome confirmed her parents are missing. She went on to tell the radio station that her parents had been very excited about taking the 16-day cruise. A man, who said he was Gerald and Barbara's son but would not give his name, answered the door at the couple's home and said things do not look good.

    Friends gathered Monday morning at St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake to pray and comfort each other in these times of uncertaintly. Family friend Duana Jabas described the Heils as "quiet leaders" who went to mass everyday.

    The voyage they were on was described as "the trip of a lifetime."  

    Gerald worked for the U of M's Department of Agriculture.

    Three people were rescued Sunday while 15 people, including Gerald and Barbara, remain missing.  The captain of the ship has been arrested for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

    (Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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