Man tries to find out fates of those in tsunami photos
Pictures may help relatives find closure, missionary says
From Frank Buckley
NORTH BEND, Washington (CNN) -- A missionary who found a digital camera with images of the December 26 tsunami just before it hit a Thai beach now hopes other pictures from that disk can help shed light on the fates of people in Thailand at the time.
Christian Pilet and friend Cameron Craig found the camera of a Canadian couple, John and Jackie Knill, in the rubble of Khao Lak, a resort town where the couple were frequent visitors.
When Pilet returned to his Washington state home, he and his wife, Nicole, were able to identify the owners of the camera by comparing a snapshot the Knills had made of themselves with photos posted on a tsunami missing persons Web site.
Tracking down the Knills' sons in Vancouver, British Columbia, Pilet turned over the photos to them, helping the children find closure over the loss of their parents.
"At least we know they were together, because they were always together," the Knills' son Patrick said.
"I think John and Jackie, by doing this, actually gave their sons something ... that is priceless," Pilet said.
Now Pilet thinks the camera contains images that can help bring closure to others. On the disk were pictures of people at the resort with the Knills -- a man with two children, two young people and others the Knills met during their stay.
Pilet doesn't know the fate of the people on the Knills' picture disk. They may have survived.
But if they were victims of the disaster that has left nearly 300,000 people dead or missing from Indonesia to Somalia, Pilet hopes the pictures can give their loved ones comfort with a glimpse into how they spent their final hours.
"We would very much like to identify them just to get this kind of closure to their families," Pilet said.
And Pilet knows firsthand how important such closure can be.
Several years ago, his first wife collapsed and died of an aneurysm while giving a speech. The next day, someone gave him an audio tape of the speech.
"For me, hearing my wife's voice and hearing her last comments before she fell down and was no more, were breathtaking," Pilet said, "and comforting, and awesome."