Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The bodies of "Restrepo" co-director Tim Hetherington and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Chris Hondros have left Libya and are headed to their respective home countries a day after a rocket-propelled attack claimed the lives of both men while they were covering fighting in Libya on Wednesday.
A passenger vessel, the Ionian Spirit, carrying the bodies of both men left the violence-riddled city of Misrata headed for Bengazi on Thursday. British-born Hetherington, 40, will return to the U.K. Hondros, 41, who lived in Brooklyn, will head back to the U.S., according to Hetherington's representative, Cathy Saypol.
Hetherington, a war photographer and co-director of the Oscar-nominated film "Restrepo," traveled the world as a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair and spent years in Afghanistan shooting the war documentary with Sebastian Junger.
Hetherington spoke with Saypol, his representative, the night before he died and told her not to worry about him. In phone calls, he described horrid human rights violations and a population that was desperate.
"He died doing what his mission was — to show the human cost of war and what happens to people in the crossfire," she said. "Unfortunately, this time it also included journalists."
His tweet on Tuesday -- "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO." -- was unusual for Hetherington, Saypol said.
"The fact that he did that was really intense," Saypol said.
Hondros, who worked for Getty Images, has family in North Carolina and New York. He was engaged. A spokesperson for Getty Images said the agency is "working with the family in order to bring Chris back and make funeral arrangements," but added, "it’s a long process."
The spokesperson for Getty said she couldn't say when Hondros' body will return to the U.S. because there are a "variety of forces in play that are going to determine the timing."
Fellow photojournalist Roger Richards, 49, recalled meeting Hetherington in 1999 at a workshop in Oklahoma and found him to have a kind manner and to be "very focused." He was stunned to hear news of Hetherington's death and said there is "still a little disbelief" about what happened to his friend.
"He wanted to tell stories with a real emphasis on the human condition," Richards said. "Trying to get to the heart of everything.”
Hetherington left behind a long-term girlfriend whom he had hoped to marry, his parents, and a brother and sister, both 44.