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The death toll from Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador has gone above 400 and may continue to rise. A further 2,500 were injured. Among the victims weekend was a religious sister and five postulants of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a community in Playa Pieta.
Sister Clare Maria Crockett, 33, from Derry, Northern Ireland, was killed when a stairwell collapsed in the school where she taught music.
“On Sunday, April 17 we lost our daughter, sister and aunt Sister Clare Crockett as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador,” said a statement issued by her family. “At this difficult time we would ask for privacy.”
They believe she was caught in the collapse while trying to help others to safety.
“She died as she lived, helping others. She was trying to get them down the stairs, and the staircase collapsed,” said her cousin, Emmet Doyle. “We knew she was trapped but information has been slow to come out. She was the last sister found.”
The school the Servants of the Home of the Mother run on the coast of Ecuador was completely destroyed. Rescue workers managed to pull out three other sisters and two postulants, who were injured and taken to the hospital.
The Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, on their website, said the sisters taught over 400 children at the “Colegio Sagrada Familia” in Playa Prieta. The sisters’ residence was on the third floor of one of the school buildings. At the moment of the earthquake, four professed sisters and seven postulants were inside the building. They recently had been assisting people affected by intense flooding the area, which left countless families homeless.
There were no students in the school at the time of the earthquake, the website said.
The account noted that as soon as the rumbling began, the community’s superior, Sister Estela Morales, rushed to the chapel to rescue the Blessed Sacrament.
“As soon as she had the Lord in her hands, everything around her collapsed and fell down to the ground floor,” it said. “Her first thought had been to save the Lord before saving her own life, and the Lord rescued her in turn – there is no doubt about it.” Sister Estela emerged with little more than a broken foot.
Watch moments from Sister Clare’s life of service, here:
Sister Clare had been a teenage actress and TV presenter before leaving her life of partying to work with the poor, according to the British tabloid The Mirror. She even had small part in Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday film.
“I liked to party a lot,” she once said in an interview. “My weekends, since I was 16 or 17, consisted of getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes.”
The Mirror described how she became a religious:
Her first steps to life as a nun came when she accepted a free trip to Spain. Expecting a 10-day party in the sun, she was soon to learn she had actually joined a pilgrimage — with middle-aged women and rosary beads. Sister Clare admitted she was a “happy camper” on the trip, which was to a 16th-century monastery, but in hindsight she recognised it was to lead her on the path to her vocation. “I tried to get out of it, but my name was already on the ticket, so I had to go,” she said. “I now see that it was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back home, back to her and her son.” […] She recalled it was while she was on a film set in England that she began to feel empty and unhappy — despite having achieved her childhood dream of acting. “I saw that even though it seemed I had everything, in reality I had nothing,” she said.