A young Irish nun described by her family as a superstar died with five others in Saturday’s Ecuador earthquake as she tried to lead them to safety.
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, was the last to be dug out of the rubble after a stairwell collapsed in the school where she taught in Playa Prieta in the western province of Manabi.
Sr Clare, from the Brandywell area of Derry City, was a nun with the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother and taught 400 children in the Colegio Sagrada Familia school, including how to play the guitar.
She was with six Ecuadorian postulants, in the early stages of joining the order, when the disaster struck.
“She was a superstar. Everybody loved her,” said her cousin Emmet Doyle.
He said Sr Clare had been teaching music before the earthquake hit, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
More than 260 people died and 2,500 others were injured with the epicentre 26km from Muisne in a sparsely populated area of fishing ports popular with tourists.
“She was the last sister found,” said Mr Doyle.
“She was trying to get them down the stairs and the staircase collapsed. We knew she was trapped but information has been slow to come out. She died as she lived, helping others.”
The US Geological Survey said it was a shallow quake and it was the strongest to hit the country since 1979.
A state of emergency was declared in six of Ecuador’s 24 provinces — with 10,000 armed forces deployed and 4,600 national police sent to the towns near the epicentre. Four nuns had been in one of the school buildings, where they lived on the third floor, when the quake hit.
Another Irish nun, Sr Therese Ryan, 36, was the first pulled free with a fractured ankle and several bruises. Two others were rescued, Sr Estela Morales, 40, the superior from Spain, and Sr Merly Alcybar, 34, from Ecuador, who survived a wall falling on her.
The five dead postulants were named by the order as Jazmina, Mayra, Maria Augusta, Valeria, and Catalina. Two others were pulled from the rubble after their voices were heard.
“Sr Clare had spent nearly 15 years of her life in consecration to the Lord,” Sr Teresa of the Order in Cantabria, Spain said.
“She was a generous sister with a special gift for reaching out to children and young people.”
Sr Clare’s family appealed for privacy and said: “We lost our daughter, sister and aunt Sr Clare Theresa Crockett as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador.”
The nuns, including Sr Clare, were working in recent days on flood relief efforts after the region was devastated by heavy rains before the quake hit.
The order said: “The flooding left countless families stranded, without homes.”
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