Sri Lanka explosions: Death struck when girl, 11, was waiting in line for communion

A photo of Sneha Savindi Fernando, 11, at her home in Negombo. She was standing in line for communion at Easter Mass when the blast happened.
A photo of Sneha Savindi Fernando, 11, at her home in Negombo. She was standing in line for communion at Easter Mass when the blast happened. PHOTO: NYTIMES

COLOMBO • The little room, like much of Sri Lanka, could hold no more grief.

All day on Monday, through the steamy heat, mourners quietly stepped inside and paused in front of a sealed coffin containing what was left of Sneha Savindi Fernando.

Sneha was 11 years old and standing in line for communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when she was blown apart.

"Why did you leave me?" her grandmother cried, sitting in front of the coffin and rubbing its sides, with anguish in her eyes. "There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?"

It was a question all of Sri Lanka was asking. The true toll of Sunday's attacks was starting to come into focus the next day, as family members, government officials and news reports offered the first glimpses of the people who lost their lives.


Ms Mary Otricia Johnson was among the victims at St Anthony's Shrine in Colombo.

Her eldest daughter, Ms Sharon Silviya, said the family had attended mass together. Around 8.30am, Ms Silviya's son asked to see a fish tank at the front of the church.

Ms Johnson, 47, told them to go see it. That was the last time they spoke. Minutes later, an enormous blast was heard.

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Ms Shantha Mayadunne was a well-known figure in Sri Lanka, where she had long been a celebrity chef with a cooking show on local television. She and her daughter, Ms Nisanga Mayadunne, were among those killed at Shangri-La Hotel, according to news reports.

Minutes before the attacks, Ms Nisanga Mayadunne had posted a family photo on Facebook with seven wide smiles.


Mr K. Pirathap, an autorickshaw driver from Colombo, his wife and their two daughters were also among the dead at St Anthony's Shrine. Mr Pirathap's brother, Mr K. Wimalendran, said he received a call on Sunday morning from a cousin about a loud explosion. He tried reaching Mr Pirathap, 38, who had gone with his family to mass in a celebratory mood: He had just bought a new vehicle.

But the call did not go through. Later, Mr Wimalendran heard that some 40 bodies had been lined up at the church. He waited for officials to finish their work and then searched for the family. He recognised all four of them.


Sri Lankan restaurant attendant Ravindran Fernando, who worked at a restaurant close to St Anthony's Shrine, was killed while attending mass with his family.

As the service started, he took a place with his son in the back of the church. His wife, Ms Delicia Fernando, and the couple's two daughters stood in the front.

Ms Fernando recalled hearing a loud explosion and watching the church's ceiling collapse. Her son came running. "Father is there! Father is there!" he yelled.


On Monday morning, parents and students at Sidwell Friends School in Washington learnt that fifth-grader Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa was among the victims.

Ms Rachel Kane, principal of the middle school, wrote in a letter to the students' families that Kieran had been on a leave of absence from the school this year and living in Sri Lanka.


Another victim was Ms Kaori Takahashi from Japan, who had been having breakfast at Shangri-La Hotel with her family, according to NHK. Her husband was wounded, but survived.


Zayan Chowdhury, an eight-year-old relative of a prominent Bangladeshi politician, was among those killed in one of the hotel blasts.

The Dhaka Tribune newspaper said he had been on vacation with his family.

He was the grandson of Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, leader of Bangladesh's governing Awami League party, and a cousin of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline Sri Lanka explosions: Death struck when girl, 11, was waiting in line for communion. Subscribe