MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Hundreds of mourners paid emotional tribute yesterday to 10 senior citizens who lost their lives in a Chilean bus crash, recalling their love for life and for one another.
Cantor Eli Perlman, spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of Concordia, where six of the victims had worshiped, recited the names of the dead. Among the almost 400 people who gathered was Governor Jon S. Corzine.
The victims, all in their 60s and 70s, were part of a 64-member B'nai B'rith group traveling aboard the cruise ship Millennium. During a stop in Chile, they were on a side excursion tour bus Wednesday when it tumbled more than 300 feet down a mountainside. The crashed killed 12 people, including a couple from Connecticut.
Chilean officials are investigating the crash, which happened after the bus swerved to avoid an approaching truck. The Chilean driver was injured and remained hospitalized. Officials have said the bus was not certified to carry passengers.
Officials suspect the driver fell asleep, lead investigator Manuel Gonzalez said.
Many of the victims had known one another their entire lives and had decided to spend their retirement together in a planned community.
''They worked hard," Perlman said. ''They played by the rules. They raised their families. And then they went on a journey together as friends to climb to the heights of the mountains in a faraway land. But they did not stop there. They continued to even greater heights . . . the glorious heights of God's heaven."
The New Jersey residents killed were identified by Chilean authorities as Marian Diamond, 76; Hans Wilhelm Otto Eggers, 72, and his wife, Maria Eggers, 71; Barbara Rubin, 69, and her husband, Robert Rubin, 72; Arthur Joseph Kovar, 67, and his wife, Frieda Kovar, 74; Shirley Bier, 76, and her husband, Marvin Bier, 79; and Carole Ellen Ruchelman, 63.
A couple from Stamford, Conn., Linda Greenfield, 63, and Ira Greenfield, 68, also were killed. Their funeral will be held today at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, said Rabbi Daniel Cohen.
At Spiro and Angie's, a diner near where the N.J. seniors lived, co-owner Angela Mastoras remembered serving many of them last week, just before they left for the vacation. ''They were all very happy they were going to Chile, and just excited to be leaving," she said. ''It's just so sad."