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Briton visits truck tragedy victims in Vietnam

Ever since the Essex truck tragedy in 2019, John Hurson has wanted to share his condolences in person with the families of the 39 Vietnamese who lost their lives. Earlier this month, he finally got his chance.

On the morning of February 11, Hurson, a 53-year-old truck driver from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, uneasily visited five families in Thien Loc Commune, Can Loc District, Ha Tinh Province, central Vietnam.

Out front of a one-story house, Hurson was able to share his feelings with a couple around his age who had lost a child in the incident.

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John Hurson (L) visits the family of Nguyen Thi Huong (R), the wife of Tran Manh Hung, one of 39 Vietnamese victims found in a truck in Essex, the U.K. in 2019, February 11, 2023.

"People in my hometown are also very sad and outraged by the tragedy," he said. "We feel we are partly blame for the great loss of your family. I would like to apologize you on behalf of our people."

Vo Nhan Que and his wife are one of five families in Thien Loc whose relatives died in Essex.

"He was the only boy in our family," Que told Hurson with tears in his eyes.

The altar in the middle of Que's home is adorned with a photo of a smiling young man whose life ended at the age of 20.

Hurson had to avert his eyes as the boy's mother burst into tears while recalling the story of their family tragedy.

Before saying goodbye, Hurson presented the family with a miniature replica of the Ardboe High Cross (a symbol of Tyrone County, made in the 10th century) and posed for a photo with a flag that reads "From Tyrone to Vietnam" as a symbol of friendship.

Hurson called on four more families in the same village. At each house, he gave gifts and bowed at the altar before the spirits of the deceased.

During his visit to the second family, he was able to speak with Dang Thi Quyen in English. She sobbed, talking about her husband’s death at the age of 30, and her struggle to raise three children today.

After hearing her story, Hurson was speechless. He stepped out of the house and lit a cigarette on the porch.

"The sentences for the human traffickers are too light," he said, "not enough of a deterrent."

On October 23, 2019, 39 bodies, including 31 men and eight women, were discovered in a refrigerated container truck in Essex County, eastern England.

The victims were identified as Vietnamese nationals who had illegally entered the U.K. in the container on a ferry from Belgium.

The U.K. arrested four suspects in the case, and Vietnam arrested 11 suspects associated with a human trafficking ring that brought laborers to the U.K. illegally.

In early 2021, a British court sentenced four defendants to 13-27 years in prison for their involvement in the human trafficking conspiracy that led to the deaths of the 39 Vietnamese.

In January 2022, a Belgian court sentenced 18 defendants related to the case, including the group’s Vietnamese ringleader.

In March 2022, a British court sentenced another defendant to 3 years and 10 months in prison.

Hurson said he wanted to visit all 39 victims'relatives, but he couldn’t because they live in several different provinces throughout north and central Vietnam.

While he visited those he could, he said he could feel the unresolved pain of the families. After the visits, Hurson said that what he'd experienced that day would stay "fresh in my mind": photos of the deceased, incense and the grieving faces of those who lost loved ones.

He said that while it was sad and sorrowful to think of the communities so devastated by the deaths, being able to share his condolences in person had provided at least a modicum of "relief."

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Source: VnExpress

Briton, truck tragedy victims, Vietnam, Essex truck tragedy, John Hurson, lost their lives, one-story house, family tragedy, human trafficking
 
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