The family of two White Bear Lake residents who are among the missing in a cruise ship accident off the coast of Italy thanked rescue workers for their efforts after the Italian government called off search efforts Tuesday.
"We are certainly disheartened to hear this news but understand and accept the decision to bring the search operation to a halt," the family wrote late this afternoon on the blog they've used to communicate with the media. "We cannot express enough our sincere gratitude to all those involved in the search and rescue effort."
Geraldand Barbara Heil have been missing since the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground on Jan. 13 with 4,200 people aboard.
Authorities called off the search Tuesday morning after conditions became too dangerous for rescue workers. Seventeen deaths have been confirmed, and the Heils are among 16 people who are missing but presumed dead, according to the Associated Press.
The family said they planned to hold a memorial service in the coming weeks and thanked the public for their prayers and support: "As we struggle to come to grips with this tragedy, we find comfort knowing Mom and Dad are now in a better place free from any worries. They have always been obedient to God's plan and now we must do the same."