MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) – They grew up together, and grew old together. Then, while on a typically adventurous vacation trip, they died together.

Ten residents of a retirement community near Princeton were among the dozen people who lost their lives Wednesday when their tour bus plunged off a mountain road in Chile. Twelve Americans died and two were injured, Chilean officials said.

The victims – all in their 60s and 70s – were part of a 64-member B’nai B’rith group on vacation on the cruise ship Millennium, according to Celebrity Cruises President Dan Hanrahan.

Ten of the dead were residents of a retirement development in Monroe Township, as were the two people injured, said Wayne Hamilton, the township’s business administrator.

A couple from Connecticut also were killed, according to a rabbi who spoke with a relative of those victims.

“You just have to remember the wonderful things about these people, that they were on a happy trip,” said Evelyn Goldstein, president of the Jewish Congregation of Concordia in Monroe Township, where some of the victims worshipped. “I think that’s important to remember.”

Cantor Eli Perlman said many of the victims had been friends their entire lives and retired together at a development called The Ponds. “They were very close and knew each other extremely well and wanted to spend their retirement years together,” Perlman said.

It is not the first tragedy for the temple. Six members lost children in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Perlman said. “This is going to be another one of those times,” he said.

Rhoda Katz, 73, said she was friends with several of the victims. “It’s a terrible tragedy. I have no words,” said Katz, who lives in The Ponds. “They looked forward to it so. Everyone that was going on the trip was very upbeat.”

The tourists were returning to the ship from an excursion to Lauca National Park when the bus plunged off the rugged highway near Arica.

, 1,250 miles north of Santiago, said Juan Carlos Poli, an Arica city spokesman. Poli said the bus, which had a capacity of 16 passengers, was destroyed.

Chilean officials identified the New Jersey victims as Marian Diamond, 76; Maria, 71, and Hans Wilhelm Otto Eggers, 72; Barbara, 69, and Robert Rubin, 72; Frieda, 74, and Arthur J. Kovar, 67; Shirley, 76, and Marvin Bier, 79; and Carole Ellen Ruchelman, 63.

Harold Ruchelman, 67, and Bernard Diamond, 66, spouses of two of the victims, were hospitalized in stable condition Thursday, U.S. Embassy spokesman John Vance said. Two Chileans – the driver and the tour guide – also were hospitalized, Poli said.

Also killed were Linda, 63, and Ira Greenfield, 68, of Stamford, Conn.

“Everyone is in a tremendous state of shock and sadness,” said Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Congregation Agudath Sholom, where the Greenfields were longtime members.

Linda Greenfield, 63, was a mentor at a high school and an active volunteer in the congregation, Cohen said. Ira Greenfield, 68, was a sales clerk at a television store.

The Rubins were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and Robert Rubin’s birthday, which was Wednesday.

Arthur Kovar helped organize the trip, as he had others for members of the B’nai Brith chapter at The Ponds. “He would watch over everyone on these trips. He was just a wonderful man,” Katz said.

Eggers, meanwhile, was remembered as a handyman who always helped his neighbors with odd jobs. “He really was so good to me,” said John Mezzasalma, who lived next door.

The cruise line said it was flying relatives of the victims to Chile.

The ship, carrying approximately 1,500 guests and 920 crew members, was on a 14-night South American cruise. It left Valparaiso, Chile, on Sunday and was scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 2.

Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, said the bus tour was not affiliated with the cruise line.


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