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The Costa Concordia Disaster: How Human Error Made It Worse

By: Becky Little

Updated: August 10, 2023 | Original: June 23, 2021

Night view on January 16, 2012, of the cruise liner Costa Concordia aground in front of the harbor of Isola del Giglio after hitting underwater rocks on January 13.

Many famous naval disasters happen far out at sea, but on January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia wrecked just off the coast of an Italian island in relatively shallow water. The avoidable disaster killed 32 people and seriously injured many others, and left investigators wondering: Why was the luxury cruise ship sailing so close to the shore in the first place?

During the ensuing trial, prosecutors came up with a tabloid-ready explanation : The married ship captain had sailed it so close to the island to impress a much younger Moldovan dancer with whom he was having an affair.

Whether or not Captain Francesco Schettino was trying to impress his girlfriend is debatable. (Schettino insisted the ship sailed close to shore to salute other mariners and give passengers a good view.) But whatever the reason for getting too close, the Italian courts found the captain, four crew members and one official from the ship’s company, Costa Crociere (part of Carnival Corporation), to be at fault for causing the disaster and preventing a safe evacuation. The wreck was not the fault of unexpected weather or ship malfunction—it was a disaster caused entirely by a series of human errors.

“At any time when you have an incident similar to Concordia, there is never…a single causal factor,” says Brad Schoenwald, a senior marine inspector at the United States Coast Guard. “It is generally a sequence of events, things that line up in a bad way that ultimately create that incident.”

Wrecking Near the Shore

Technicians pass in a small boat near the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia lying aground in front of the Isola del Giglio on January 26, 2012 after hitting underwater rocks on January 13.

The Concordia was supposed to take passengers on a seven-day Italian cruise from Civitavecchia to Savona. But when it deviated from its planned path to sail closer to the island of Giglio, the ship struck a reef known as the Scole Rocks. The impact damaged the ship, allowing water to seep in and putting the 4,229 people on board in danger.

Sailing close to shore to give passengers a nice view or salute other sailors is known as a “sail-by,” and it’s unclear how often cruise ships perform these maneuvers. Some consider them to be dangerous deviations from planned routes. In its investigative report on the 2012 disaster, Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports found that the Concordia “was sailing too close to the coastline, in a poorly lit shore area…at an unsafe distance at night time and at high speed (15.5 kts).”

In his trial, Captain Schettino blamed the shipwreck on Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin, who he claimed reacted incorrectly to his order; and argued that if the helmsman had reacted correctly and quickly, the ship wouldn’t have wrecked. However, an Italian naval admiral testified in court that even though the helmsman was late in executing the captain’s orders, “the crash would’ve happened anyway.” (The helmsman was one of the four crew members convicted in court for contributing to the disaster.)

A Questionable Evacuation

Former Captain of the Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino speaks with reporters after being aboard the ship with the team of experts inspecting the wreck on February 27, 2014 in Isola del Giglio, Italy. The Italian captain went back onboard the wreck for the first time since the sinking of the cruise ship on January 13, 2012, as part of his trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Evidence introduced in Schettino’s trial suggests that the safety of his passengers and crew wasn’t his number one priority as he assessed the damage to the Concordia. The impact and water leakage caused an electrical blackout on the ship, and a recorded phone call with Costa Crociere’s crisis coordinator, Roberto Ferrarini, shows he tried to downplay and cover up his actions by saying the blackout was what actually caused the accident.

“I have made a mess and practically the whole ship is flooding,” Schettino told Ferrarini while the ship was sinking. “What should I say to the media?… To the port authorities I have said that we had…a blackout.” (Ferrarini was later convicted for contributing to the disaster by delaying rescue operations.)

Schettino also didn’t immediately alert the Italian Search and Rescue Authority about the accident. The impact on the Scole Rocks occurred at about 9:45 p.m. local time, and the first person to contact rescue officials about the ship was someone on the shore, according to the investigative report. Search and Rescue contacted the ship a few minutes after 10:00 p.m., but Schettino didn’t tell them what had happened for about 20 more minutes.

A little more than an hour after impact, the crew began to evacuate the ship. But the report noted that some passengers testified that they didn’t hear the alarm to proceed to the lifeboats. Evacuation was made even more chaotic by the ship listing so far to starboard, making walking inside very difficult and lowering the lifeboats on one side, near to impossible. Making things worse, the crew had dropped the anchor incorrectly, causing the ship to flop over even more dramatically.

Through the confusion, the captain somehow made it into a lifeboat before everyone else had made it off. A coast guard member angrily told him on the phone to “Get back on board, damn it!” —a recorded sound bite that turned into a T-shirt slogan in Italy.

Schettino argued that he fell into a lifeboat because of how the ship was listing to one side, but this argument proved unconvincing. In 2015, a court found Schettino guilty of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship before passengers and crew were evacuated and lying to authorities about the disaster. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. In addition to Schettino, Ferrarini and Rusli Bin, the other people who received convictions for their role in the disaster were Cabin Service Director Manrico Giampedroni, First Officer Ciro Ambrosio and Third Officer Silvia Coronica.

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How the Wreck of a Cruise Liner Changed an Italian Island

Ten years ago the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, killing 32 people and entwining the lives of others forever.

cruise ship italy sank

By Gaia Pianigiani

GIGLIO PORTO, Italy — The curvy granite rocks of the Tuscan island of Giglio lay bare in the winter sun, no longer hidden by the ominous, stricken cruise liner that ran aground in the turquoise waters of this marine sanctuary ten years ago.

Few of the 500-odd residents of the fishermen’s village will ever forget the freezing night of Jan. 13, 2012, when the Costa Concordia shipwrecked, killing 32 people and upending life on the island for years.

“Every one of us here has a tragic memory from then,” said Mario Pellegrini, 59, who was deputy mayor in 2012 and was the first civilian to climb onto the cruise ship after it struck the rocks near the lighthouses at the port entrance.

The hospitality of the tight-knit community of islanders kicked in, at first to give basic assistance to the 4,229 passengers and crew members who had to be evacuated from a listing vessel as high as a skyscraper. In no time, Giglio residents hosted thousands of journalists, law enforcement officers and rescue experts who descended on the port. In the months to come, salvage teams set up camp in the picturesque harbor to work on safely removing the ship, an operation that took more than two years to complete.

cruise ship italy sank

The people of Giglio felt like a family for those who spent long days at its port, waiting to receive word of their loved ones whose bodies remained trapped on the ship. On Thursday, 10 years to the day of the tragedy, the victims’ families, some passengers and Italian authorities attended a remembrance Mass and threw a crown of flowers onto the waters where the Costa Concordia had rested. At 9:45 p.m., the time when the ship ran aground, a candlelit procession illuminated the port’s quay while church bells rang and ship sirens blared.

What stands out now for many is how the wreck forever changed the lives of some of those whose paths crossed as a result. Friendships were made, business relations took shape and new families were even formed.

“It feels as if, since that tragic night, the lives of all the people involved were forever connected by an invisible thread,” Luana Gervasi, the niece of one of the shipwreck victims, said at the Mass on Thursday, her voice breaking.

Francesco Dietrich, 48, from the eastern city of Ancona, arrived on the island in February 2013 to work with the wreck divers, “a dream job,” he said, adding: “It was like offering someone who plays soccer for the parish team to join the Champions League with all the top teams in the business.”

For his work, Mr. Dietrich had to buy a lot of boat-repair supplies from the only hardware store in town. It was owned by a local family, and Mr. Dietrich now has a 6-year-old son, Pietro, with the family’s daughter.

“It was such a shock for us,” said Bruna Danei, 42, who until 2018 worked as a secretary for the consortium that salvaged the wreck. “The work on the Costa Concordia was a life-changing experience for me in many ways.”

A rendering of the Costa Concordia used by salvage teams to plan its recovery hung on the wall of the living room where her 22-month-old daughter, Arianna, played.

“She wouldn’t be here if Davide hadn’t come to work on the site,” Ms. Danei said, referring to Davide Cedioli, 52, an experienced diver from Turin who came to the island in May 2012 to help right the Costa Concordia — and who is also Arianna’s father.

From a barge, Mr. Cedioli monitored the unprecedented salvage operation that, in less than a day, was able to rotate the 951-foot vessel, partly smashed against the rocks, from the sea bottom to an upright position without further endangering the underwater ecosystem that it damaged when it ran aground.

“We jumped up and down in happiness when the parbuckling was completed,” Mr. Cedioli remembered. “We felt we were bringing some justice to this story. And I loved this small community and living on the island.”

The local council voted to make Jan. 13 a day of remembrance on Giglio, but after this year it will stop the public commemorations and “make it a more intimate moment, without the media,” Mr. Ortelli said during the mass.

“Being here ten years later brings back a lot of emotions,” said Kevin Rebello, 47, whose older brother, Russell, was a waiter on the Costa Concordia.

Russell Rebello’s remains were finally retrieved three years after the shipwreck, from under the furniture in a cabin, once the vessel was upright and being taken apart in Genoa.

“First, I feel close to my brother here,” Kevin Rebello said. “But it is also some sort of family reunion for me — I couldn’t wait to see the Giglio people.”

Mr. Rebello hugged and greeted residents on the streets of the port area, and recalled how the people there had shown affection for him at the time, buying him coffee and simply showing respect for his grief.

“Other victims’ families feel differently, but I am a Catholic and I have forgiven,” Mr. Rebello explained.

The Costa Concordia accident caused national shame when it became clear that the liner’s commander, Francesco Schettino, failed to immediately sound the general alarm and coordinate the evacuation, and instead abandoned the sinking vessel.

“Get back on board!” a Coast Guard officer shouted at Mr. Schettino when he understood that the captain was in a lifeboat watching people scramble to escape, audio recordings of their exchange later revealed. “Go up on the bow of the ship on a rope ladder, and tell me what you can do, how many people are there and what they need. Now!”

The officer has since pursued a successful career in politics, while Mr. Schettino is serving a 16-year sentence in a Roman prison for homicide and for abandoning the ship before the evacuation was completed. Other officials and crew members plea-bargained for lesser sentences.

During the trial, Mr. Schettino admitted that he had committed an “imprudence” when he decided to sail near the island of Giglio at high speed to greet the family of the ship’s headwaiter. The impact with the half-submerged rock near the island produced a gash in the hull more than 70 meters long, or about 76 yards, leading to blackouts on board and water pouring into the lower decks.

Mr. Schettino tried to steer the cruise ship toward the port to make evacuation easier, but the vessel was out of control and began to tip as it neared the harbor, making many lifeboats useless.

“I can’t forget the eyes of children, scared to death, and of their parents,” said Mr. Pellegrini, who had boarded the ship to speak with officials and organize the evacuation. “The metallic sound of the enormous ship tipping over and the gurgling of the sea up the endless corridors of the cruiser.”

Sergio Ortelli, who is still the mayor of Giglio ten years later, was similarly moved. “Nobody can go back and cancel those senseless deaths of innocent people, or the grief of their families,” he said. “The tragedy will always stay with us as a community. It was an apocalypse for us.”

Yet Mr. Ortelli said that the accident also told a different story, that of the skilled rescuers who managed to save thousands of lives, and of the engineers who righted the liner, refloated it and took it to the scrapyard.

While the global attention shifted away from Giglio, residents have stayed in touch with the outside world through the people who temporarily lived there.

For months, the Rev. Lorenzo Pasquotti, who was then a pastor in Giglio, kept receiving packages: dry-cleaned slippers, sweaters and tablecloths that were given to the cold, stranded passengers in his church that night, returned via courier.

One summer, Father Pasquotti ate German cookies with a German couple who were passengers on the ship. They still remembered the hot tea and leftovers from Christmas delicacies that they were given that night.

“So many nationalities — the world was at our door all of a sudden,” he said, remembering that night. “And we naturally opened it.”

Gaia Pianigiani is a reporter based in Italy for The New York Times.  More about Gaia Pianigiani

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10 years later, Costa Concordia survivors share their stories from doomed cruise ship

Ten years after the deadly Costa Concordia cruise line disaster in Italy, survivors still vividly remember scenes of chaos they say were like something straight out of the movie "Titanic."

NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella caught up with a group of survivors on TODAY Wednesday, a decade after they escaped a maritime disaster that claimed the lives of 32 people. The Italian cruise ship ran aground off the tiny Italian island of Giglio after striking an underground rock and capsizing.

"I think it’s the panic, the feeling of panic, is what’s carried through over 10 years," Ian Donoff, who was on the cruise with his wife Janice for their honeymoon, told Cobiella. "And it’s just as strong now."

More than 4,000 passengers and crew were on board when the ship crashed into rocks in the dark in the Mediterranean Sea, sending seawater rushing into the vessel as people scrambled for their lives.

The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, had been performing a sail-past salute of Giglio when he steered the ship too close to the island and hit the jagged reef, opening a 230-foot gash in the side of the cruise liner.

Passengers struggled to escape in the darkness, clambering to get to the life boats. Alaska resident Nate Lukes was with his wife, Cary, and their four daughters aboard the ship and remembers the chaos that ensued as the ship started to sink.

"There was really a melee there is the best way to describe it," he told Cobiella. "It's very similar to the movie 'Titanic.' People were jumping onto the top of the lifeboats and pushing down women and children to try to get to them."

The lifeboats wouldn't drop down because the ship was tilted on its side, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded on the side of the ship for hours in the cold. People were left to clamber down a rope ladder over a distance equivalent to 11 stories.

"Everybody was rushing for the lifeboats," Nate Lukes said. "I felt like (my daughters) were going to get trampled, and putting my arms around them and just holding them together and letting the sea of people go by us."

Schettino was convicted of multiple manslaughter as well as abandoning ship after leaving before all the passengers had reached safety. He is now serving a 16-year prison sentence .

It took nearly two years for the damaged ship to be raised from its side before it was towed away to be scrapped.

The calamity caused changes in the cruise industry like carrying more lifejackets and holding emergency drills before leaving port.

A decade after that harrowing night, the survivors are grateful to have made it out alive. None of the survivors who spoke with Cobiella have been on a cruise since that day.

"I said that if we survive this, then our marriage will have to survive forever," Ian Donoff said.

Scott Stump is a trending reporter and the writer of the daily newsletter This is TODAY (which you should subscribe to here! ) that brings the day's news, health tips, parenting stories, recipes and a daily delight right to your inbox. He has been a regular contributor for TODAY.com since 2011, producing features and news for pop culture, parents, politics, health, style, food and pretty much everything else. 

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10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster is still vivid for survivors

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side after it ran aground off the coast of Italy in 2012.

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Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio . But for the passengers on board and the residents who welcomed them ashore, the memories of that harrowing, freezing night remain vividly etched into their minds.

The dinner plates that flew off the tables when the rocks first gashed the hull. The blackout after the ship’s engine room flooded and its generators failed. The final mad scramble to evacuate the listing liner and then the extraordinary generosity of Giglio islanders who offered shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun rose and passengers were ferried to the mainland.

Italy on Thursday is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration that will end with a candlelit vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012. The events will honor the 32 people who died that night, the 4,200 survivors, but also the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with the Concordia’s wrecked carcass off their shore for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.

“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always refer to whether it was before or after the Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 and fishing on the jetty when the darkened Concordia listed toward shore and then collapsed onto its side in the water.

“I imagine it like a nail stuck to the wall that marks that date, as a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue effort that night, helping pull ashore the dazed, injured and freezing passengers from lifeboats.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month warned people across-the-board not to go on cruises , regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.

A couple stands on a rear balcony of the Ruby Princess cruise ship while docked in San Francisco, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a cruise ship that docked in San Francisco on Thursday after a dozen vaccinated passengers tested positive for coronavirus. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A dozen passengers on cruise ship test positive for coronavirus

The passengers, whose infections were found through random testing, were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, according to the Port of San Francisco.

Jan. 7, 2022

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety still isn’t a top priority for the cruise ship industry. Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship close too shore in a stunt. He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower because the ship was listing too heavily.

“I always said this will not define me, but you have no choice,” Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles. “We all suffer from PTSD. We had a lot of guilt that we survived and 32 other people died.”

Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.

Ananias and her family declined Costa’s initial $14,500 compensation offered to each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and therapy for the post-traumatic stress they have suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and then Italian court system, they lost their case.

“I think people need to be aware that when you go on a cruise, that if there is a problem, you will not have the justice that you may be used to in the country in which you are living,” said Ananias, who went onto become a top official in the International Cruise Victims association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety aboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

Cruise Lines International Assn., the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, stressed in a statement to the Associated Press that passenger and crew safety were the industry’s top priority, and that cruising remains one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” CLIA said. It said it has worked over the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “drive a safety culture that is based on continuous improvement.”

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the capsized ship, the scramble to coordinate rescue services on shore, the recovery of the first bodies and then the pride that islanders rose to the occasion to tend to the survivors.

Ortelli was later on hand when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 1,000-foot long cruise ship was righted vertical off its seabed graveyard in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains seared in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the response of the people was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. “But then we realized that on that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

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Ten years on, Costa Concordia shipwreck still haunts survivors, islanders

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The cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen during the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour

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10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster vivid for survivors

Image

FILE — The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side after it ran aground off the coast of the Isola del Giglio island, Italy on Jan. 13, 2012. Italy is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Modesti)

FILE— The grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen through a window on the Isola del Giglio island, Italy, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Oil removal ships near the cruise ship Costa Concordia leaning on its side Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, after running aground near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, last Friday night. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— The Costa Concordia ship lies on its side on the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

FILE— A sunbather gets her tan on a rock during the operations to refloat the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia on the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Once the ship has refloated it will be towed to Genoa’s port, about 200 nautical miles (320 kilometers), where it will be dismantled. 30 months ago it struck a reef and capsized, killing 32 people. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— The wrecked hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is towed along the Tyrrhenian Sea, 30 miles off the coast of Viareggio, Italy, Friday, July 25, 2014. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Fabio Muzzi)

FILE— A view of the previously submerged side of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, off the coast of the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— A passenger from South Korea, center, walks with Italian Firefighters, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, after being rescued from the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia which ran aground on the tiny Italian island of Isola del Giglio. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— A woman hangs her laundry as the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen in the background, off the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap.(AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— In this photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, Francesco Schettino, right, the captain of the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, is taken into custody by Carabinieri in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Giacomo Aprili)

Experts aboard a sea platform carry oil recovery equipment, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, as they return to the port of the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, where the cruise ship Costa Concordia, visible in background, ran aground on Ja. 13, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Seagulls fly in front of the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia off the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Italian firefighters conduct search operations on the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia that ran aground the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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GIGLIO, Italy (AP) — Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio. But for the passengers on board and the residents who welcomed them ashore, the memories of that harrowing, freezing night remain vividly etched into their minds.

The dinner plates that flew off the tables when the rocks first gashed the hull. The blackout after the ship’s engine room flooded and its generators failed. The final mad scramble to evacuate the listing liner and then the extraordinary generosity of Giglio islanders who offered shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun rose and passengers were ferried to the mainland.

Italy on Thursday is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration that will end with a candlelit vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012. The events will honor the 32 people who died that night, the 4,200 survivors, but also the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with the Concordia’s wrecked carcass off their shore for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.

“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always refer to whether it was before or after the Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 and fishing on the jetty when the darkened Concordia listed toward shore and then collapsed onto its side in the water.

“I imagine it like a nail stuck to the wall that marks that date, as a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue effort that night, helping pull ashore the dazed, injured and freezing passengers from lifeboats.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month warned people across-the-board not to go on cruises , regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety still isn’t a top priority for the cruise ship industry. Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship close too shore in a stunt. He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower because the ship was listing too heavily.

“I always said this will not define me, but you have no choice,” Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles, Calif. “We all suffer from PTSD. We had a lot of guilt that we survived and 32 other people died.”

Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.

Ananias and her family declined Costa’s initial $14,500 compensation offered to each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and therapy for the post-traumatic stress they have suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and then Italian court system, they lost their case.

“I think people need to be aware that when you go on a cruise, that if there is a problem, you will not have the justice that you may be used to in the country in which you are living,” said Ananias, who went onto become a top official in the International Cruise Victims association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety aboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, stressed in a statement to The Associated Press that passenger and crew safety was the industry’s top priority, and that cruising remains one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” CLIA said. It said it has worked over the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “drive a safety culture that is based on continuous improvement.”

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the capsized ship, the scramble to coordinate rescue services on shore, the recovery of the first bodies and then the pride that islanders rose to the occasion to tend to the survivors.

Ortelli was later on hand when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 300-meter (1,000-foot) long cruise ship was righted vertical off its seabed graveyard in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains seared in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the response of the people was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. “But then we realized that on that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

Winfield reported from Rome.

cruise ship italy sank

Striking photos as sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia lies in shallow waters

Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio island. Rescuers were painstakingly checking thousands of cabins on the Italian liner for 16 people still unaccounted for out of the 4,200 who were on board.

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Update: Rescue workers found five bodies on Tuesday in the submerged part of the Italian cruise liner that capsized off Italy’s west coast, bringing the death toll to 11.

The Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio Island on Friday.

Italian cave-rescue divers are painstakingly checking thousands of debris-filled cabins on the Italian liner Monday for more than 20 people still unaccounted for out of the 4,200 who were on board.

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Worsening weather and heavy seas earlier made the wreck slip on the rocky underwater slope where it is lodged off the island of Giglio and rescue teams were evacuated. But they returned to work after several hours. Eleven bodies have been found so far.

The divers wear wetsuits reinforced with Kevlar — the same material used to make bullet-proof vests — and have a guide line to open water, just as they do when exploring caves.

[np-related]

The vessel’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested on Saturday. He is accused of manslaughter and abandoning his ship before all those on board were evacuated.

The chief executive of the ship’s owners, Costa Cruises, on Monday blamed human error by Schettino for the disaster. Pier Luigi Foschi told a news conference the company would provide its captain with any assistance he required. “But we need to acknowledge the facts and we cannot deny human error,” he added.

“He carried out a manoeuvre which had not been approved by us and we disassociate ourselves from such behaviour,” Costa Crociere boss Pier Luigi Foschi said at a press conference in Genoa.

“If there had been a technical problem, the alarm would have sounded. There was no problem with safety on the ship. It has ultra-secure safety features.”

Words © 2012 Thomson Reuters

With files from AFP

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Read more from the Post’s Matt Gurney on the ignored scandal in the Costa Concordia disaster:

‘[A]mid the updates on the dead and missing, the speculation about possible environmental catastrophe and the human interest angle of the reckless captain, something is largely missing — the ship had been at sea for hours when the disaster occurred, and no evacuation drill had been conducted. Indeed, one wasn’t scheduled for another 24 hours’

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Another Night to Remember

This image may contain Vehicle Transportation Boat Cruise Ship and Ship

At the Italian port of Civitavecchia, 40 miles northwest of Rome, the great cruise ships line the long concrete breakwater like taxis at a curb. That Friday afternoon, January 13, 2012, the largest and grandest was the Costa Concordia, 17 decks high, a floating pleasure palace the length of three football fields. It was a cool, bright day as the crowds filed on and off the ship, those who had boarded at Barcelona and Marseilles heading into Rome for sightseeing while hundreds of new passengers pulled rolling bags toward the *Concordia’*s arrival terminal.

Up on the road, a writer from Rome named Patrizia Perilli stepped from a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and marveled at the ship’s immensity. “You could see it even before you entered the port; it was a floating monster,” she recalls. “Its size made me feel secure. It was sunny, and its windows were just sparkling.”

Inside the terminal, newcomers handed their luggage to the Indian and Filipino pursers. There was a welcome desk for an Italian reality show, Professione LookMaker, filming on board that week; among those arriving were 200 or so hairdressers from Naples and Bologna and Milan, all hoping to make it onto the show. As they chattered, flashed their passports, and boarded, then slowly filtered throughout the ship, they thought it all grand: 1,500 luxury cabins, six restaurants, 13 bars, the two-story Samsara Spa and fitness center, the three-story Atene Theatre, four swimming pools, the Barcellona Casino, the Lisbona Disco, even an Internet café, all wrapped around a dramatic, nine-story central atrium, itself a riot of pink, blue, and green lights.

Some of the hundred or so Americans on board weren’t so wowed. One likened wandering the Concordia to getting lost inside a pinball machine. “It kind of reminded me of old Vegas, you know?” says Benji Smith, a 34-year-old Massachusetts honeymooner, who had boarded at Barcelona with his wife, along with two of her relatives and two of their friends, all from Hong Kong. “Everything was really gaudy, lots of fancy blown glass in different colors. The entertainment kind of reinforced the old-Vegas thing, aging singers performing solo on a keyboard with a drum track.”

There were just over 4,200 people aboard the Concordia as it eased away from the breakwater that evening, about a thousand crew members and 3,200 passengers, including nearly a thousand Italians, hundreds of French, British, Russians, and Germans, even a few dozen from Argentina and Peru. Up on Deck 10, Patrizia Perilli stepped onto her balcony and daydreamed about sunbathing. As she began to unpack in her elegant stateroom, she glanced over at her boyfriend, who was watching a video on what to do if they needed to abandon ship. Perilli teased him, “What would we ever need that for?”

As the world now knows, they needed it desperately. Six hours later the Concordia would be lying on its side in the sea, freezing water surging up the same carpeted hallways that hairdressers and newlyweds were already using to head to dinner. Of the 4,200 people on board, 32 would be dead by dawn.

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is many things to many people. To Italians, who dominated the ship’s officer ranks and made up a third of its passengers, it is a national embarrassment; once the pinnacle of Mediterranean hedonism, the Concordia was now sprawled dead on the rocks in a cold winter sea.

But the *Concordia’*s loss is also a landmark moment in naval history. It is the largest passenger ship ever wrecked. The 4,000 people who fled its slippery decks—nearly twice as many as were aboard the R.M.S. Titanic in 1912—represent the largest maritime evacuation in history. A story of heroism and disgrace, it is also, in the mistakes of its captain and certain officers, a tale of monumental human folly.

“This was an episode of historic importance for those who study nautical issues,” says Ilarione Dell’Anna, the Italian Coast Guard admiral who oversaw much of the massive rescue effort that night. “The old point of departure was the Titanic. I believe that today the new point of departure will be the Costa Concordia. There has never been anything like this before. We must study this, to see what happened and to see what we can learn.”

Much of what happened on the night of January 13 can now be told, based on the accounts of dozens of passengers, crew members, and rescue workers. But the one group whose actions are crucial to any understanding of what went wrong—the ship’s officers—has been largely mute, silenced first by superiors at Costa Cruises and now by a web of official investigations. The officers have spoken mainly to the authorities, but this being the Italian justice system, their stories quickly leaked to the newspapers—and not simply, as happens in America, via the utterances of anonymous government officials. In Rome entire transcripts of these interrogations and depositions have been leaked, affording a fairly detailed, if still incomplete, portrait of what the captain and senior officers say actually happened.

RFK Jr.’s Family Doesn’t Want Him to Run. Even They May Not Know His Darkest Secrets.

Captain, My Captain

The Concordia first sailed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, from a Genoese shipyard, in 2005; at the time it was Italy’s largest cruise ship. When it was christened, the champagne bottle had failed to break, an ominous portent to superstitious mariners. Still, the ship proved a success for its Italian owner, Costa Cruises, a unit of the Miami-based Carnival Corporation. The ship sailed only in the Mediterranean, typically taking a circular route from Civitavecchia to Savona, Marseilles, Barcelona, Majorca, Sardinia, and Sicily.

In command on the bridge that night was 51-year-old Captain Francesco Schettino, today a figure of international contempt. Dashing and deeply tanned, with lustrous black hair, Schettino had joined Costa as a safety officer in 2002, been promoted to captain in 2006, and since September had been on his second tour aboard the Concordia. Among the officers, he was respected, though the retired captain who had mentored him later told prosecutors he was a bit too “exuberant” for his own good. Despite being married, Schettino had a lady friend at his side that evening, a comely 25-year-old off-duty hostess named Domnica Cemortan, from Moldova. Though she would later become an object of intense fascination in the press, Cemortan’s role in events that night was inconsequential.

Before leaving port, Captain Schettino set a course for Savona, on the Italian Riviera, 250 miles to the northwest. As the ship steamed into the Tyrrhenian, Schettino headed to dinner with Cemortan, telling an officer to alert him when the Concordia closed within five miles of the island of Giglio, 45 miles northwest. Later, a passenger would claim he saw Schettino and his friend polish off a decanter of red wine while eating, but the story was never confirmed. Around nine Schettino rose and, with Cemortan in tow, returned to the bridge.

Ahead lay mountainous Giglio, a collection of sleepy villages and vacation homes clustered around a tiny stone harbor, nine miles off the coast of Tuscany.

The *Concordia’*s normal course took it through the middle of the channel between Giglio and the mainland, but as Schettino arrived, it was already veering toward the island. The ship’s chief maître d’, Antonello Tievoli, was a native of Giglio and had asked the captain to perform a “salute,” essentially a slow drive-by, a common cruise-industry practice intended to show off the ship and impress local residents. Schettino had consented, in part because his mentor, Mario Palombo, lived there, too. Palombo had performed several salutes to Giglio, Schettino at least one.

As the ship made its approach, Tievoli, standing on the bridge, placed a telephone call to Palombo. The retired captain, it turned out, wasn’t on Giglio; he was at a second home, on the mainland. After some chitchat, Tievoli handed the telephone to the captain, which, Palombo told prosecutors, caught him off guard. He and Schettino hadn’t talked in at least seven years; Schettino hadn’t bothered to call when Palombo retired. “The call surprised me,” Palombo said. “I was even more surprised when Schettino asked me about the depth of the seabed in front of Giglio Island, the harbor area, specifying that he wanted to pass at a distance of 0.4 nautical miles [around 800 yards]. I answered that in that area the seabeds are good, but considering the winter season”—when few people were on the island—“there was no reason to go at close range, so I invited him to make a quick greeting and to honk the horn and remain far from shore. I want to clarify that I said, verbatim, ‘Say hi and stay away.’ ”

Just then the phone went dead. It may have been the very moment Schettino saw the rock.

Not until the ship had closed within two miles of the island, Schettino’s officers told prosecutors, did the captain take personal control of the ship. As Schettino recalled it, he stood at a radar station, in front of the broad outer windows, affording him a clear view of Giglio’s lights. An Indonesian crewman, Rusli Bin Jacob, remained at the helm, taking orders from the captain. The maneuver Schettino planned was simple, one he had overseen many, many times, just an easy turn to starboard, to the right, that would take the Concordia parallel to the coastline, dazzling the island’s residents with the length of the fully lit ship as it slid past. In doing so, however, Schettino made five crucial mistakes, the last two fatal. For one thing, the Concordia was going too fast, 15 knots, a high speed for maneuvering so close to shore. And while he had consulted radar and maps, Schettino seems to have been navigating largely by his own eyesight—“a major mistake,” in one analyst’s words. His third error was the bane of every American motorist: Schettino was talking on the phone while driving.

Schettino’s fourth mistake, however, appears to have been an amazingly stupid bit of confusion. He began his turn by calculating the distance from a set of rocks that lay about 900 yards off the harbor. What he failed to notice was another rock, nearer the ship. Giving orders to Bin Jacob, Schettino eased the Concordia into the turn without event. Then, coming onto a new, northerly course just over a half-mile from the harbor, he saw the rock below, to his left. It was enormous, just at the surface, crowned with frothing white water; he was so close to Giglio he could see it by the town’s lights.

He couldn’t believe it.

“Hard to starboard!” Schettino yelled.

It was an instinctive order, intended to steer the ship away from the rock. For a fleeting moment Schettino thought it had worked. The *Concordia’*s bow cleared the rock. Its midsection cleared as well. But by turning the ship to starboard the stern swung toward the island, striking the submerged part of the rock. “The problem was that I went to starboard trying to avoid it, and that was the mistake, because I should not have gone starboard,” Schettino told prosecutors. “I made an imprudent decision. Nothing would have happened if I had not set the helm to starboard.”

“Hard to port!” Schettino commanded, correcting his mistake.

A moment later, he shouted, “Hard to starboard!”

And then the lights went out.

It was 9:42. Many of the passengers were at dinner, hundreds of them in the vast Milano Restaurant alone. A Schenectady, New York, couple, Brian Aho and Joan Fleser, along with their 18-year-old daughter, Alana, had just been served eggplant-and-feta appetizers when Aho felt the ship shudder.

“Joan and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, ‘That’s not normal,’ ” recalls Aho. “Then there was a bang bang bang bang . Then there was just a great big groaning sound.”

“I immediately felt the ship list severely to port,” Fleser says. “Dishes went flying. Waiters went flying all over. Glasses were flying. Exactly like the scene in Titanic. ”

“I took the first bite of my eggplant and feta,” Aho says, “and I literally had to chase the plate across the table.”

“Suddenly there was a loud bang,” recalls Patrizia Perilli. “It was clear there had been a crash. Immediately after that there was a very long and powerful vibration—it seemed like an earthquake.”

A Bologna hairdresser, Donatella Landini, was sitting nearby, marveling at the coastline, when she felt the jolt. “The sensation was like a wave,” she recalls. “Then there was this really loud sound like a ta-ta-ta as the rocks penetrated the ship.” Gianmaria Michelino, a hairdresser from Naples, says, “The tables, plates, and glasses began to fall and people began to run. Many people fell. Women who had been running in high heels fell.”

All around, diners surged toward the restaurant’s main entrance. Aho and Fleser took their daughter and headed for a side exit, where the only crew member they saw, a sequined dancer, was gesticulating madly and shouting in Italian. “Just as we were leaving, the lights went out,” Fleser says, “and people started screaming, really panicking. The lights were out only for a few moments; then the emergency lights came on. We knew the lifeboats were on Deck 4. We didn’t even go back to our room. We just went for the boats.”

“We stayed at our table,” recalls Perilli. “The restaurant emptied and there was a surreal silence in the room. Everyone was gone.”

Somewhere on the ship, an Italian woman named Concetta Robi took out her cell phone and dialed her daughter in the central Italian town of Prato, near Florence. She described scenes of chaos, ceiling panels falling, waiters stumbling, passengers scrambling to put on life jackets. The daughter telephoned the police, the carabinieri.

As passengers tried in vain to understand what was happening, Captain Schettino stood on the bridge, stunned. An officer nearby later told investigators he heard the captain say, “Fuck. I didn’t see it!”

In those first confusing minutes, Schettino spoke several times with engineers belowdecks and sent at least one officer to assess the damage. Moments after the Concordia struck the rock, the chief engineer, Giuseppe Pilon, had hustled toward his control room. An officer emerged from the engine room itself shouting, “There’s water! There’s water!” “I told him to check that all the watertight doors were closed as they should be,” Pilon told prosecutors. “Just as I finished speaking we had a total blackout I opened the door to the engine room and the water had already risen to the main switchboard I informed Captain Schettino of the situation. I told him that the engine room, the main switchboard, and the stern section were flooded. I told him we had lost control of the ship.”

There was a 230-foot-long horizontal gash below the waterline. Seawater was exploding into the engine room and was fast cascading through areas holding all the ship’s engines and generators. The lower decks are divided into giant compartments; if four flood, the ship will sink.

At 9:57, 15 minutes after the ship struck the rock, Schettino phoned Costa Cruises’ operations center. The executive he spoke to, Roberto Ferrarini, later told reporters, “Schettino told me there was one compartment flooded, the compartment with electrical propulsion motors, and with that kind of situation the ship’s buoyancy was not compromised. His voice was quite clear and calm.” Between 10:06 and 10:26, the two men spoke three more times. At one point, Schettino admitted that a second compartment had flooded. That was, to put it mildly, an understatement. In fact, five compartments were flooding; the situation was hopeless. (Later, Schettino would deny that he had attempted to mislead either his superiors or anyone else.)

They were sinking. How much time they had, no one knew. Schettino had few options. The engines were dead. Computer screens had gone black. The ship was drifting and losing speed. Its momentum had carried it north along the island’s coastline, past the harbor, then past a rocky peninsula called Point Gabbianara. By 10 P.M., 20 minutes after striking the rock, the ship was heading away from the island, into open water. If something wasn’t done immediately, it would sink there.

What happened next won’t be fully understood until the *Concordia’*s black-box recorders are analyzed. But from what little Schettino and Costa officials have said, it appears that Schettino realized he had to ground the ship; evacuating a beached ship would be far safer than evacuating at sea. The nearest land, however, was already behind the ship, at Point Gabbianara. Somehow Schettino had to turn the powerless Concordia completely around and ram it into the rocks lining the peninsula. How this happened is not clear. From the ship’s course, some analysts initially speculated that Schettino used an emergency generator to gain control of the ship’s bow thrusters—tiny jets of water used in docking—which allowed him to make the turn. Others maintain that he did nothing, that the turnabout was a moment of incredible luck. They argue that the prevailing wind and current—both pushing the Concordia back toward the island—did most of the work.

“The bow thrusters wouldn’t have been usable, but from what we know, it seems like he could still steer,” says John Konrad, a veteran American captain and nautical analyst. “It looks like he was able to steer into the hairpin turn, and wind and current did the rest.”

However it was done, the Concordia completed a hairpin turn to starboard, turning the ship completely around. At that point, it began drifting straight toward the rocks.

I larione Dell’Anna, the dapper admiral in charge of Coast Guard rescue operations in Livorno, meets me on a freezing evening outside a columned seaside mansion in the coastal city of La Spezia. Inside, waiters in white waistcoats are busy laying out long tables lined with antipasti and flutes of champagne for a naval officers’ reception. Dell’Anna, wearing a blue dress uniform with a star on each lapel, takes a seat on a corner sofa.

“I’ll tell you how it all started: It was a dark and stormy night,” he begins, then smiles. “No, seriously, it was a quiet night. I was in Rome. We got a call from a town outside Florence. The party, a carabinieri officer, had a call from a woman whose mother was on a ship, we don’t know where, who was putting on life jackets. Very unusual, needless to say, for us to get such a call from land. Ordinarily a ship calls us. In this case, we had to find the ship. We were the ones who triggered the entire operation.”

That first call, like hundreds of others in the coming hours, arrived at the Coast Guard’s rescue-coordination center, a cluster of red-brick buildings on the harbor in Livorno, about 90 miles north of Giglio. Three officers were on duty that night inside its small operations room, a 12-by-25-foot white box lined with computer screens. “At 2206, I received the call,” remembers one of the night’s unsung heroes, an energetic 37-year-old petty officer named Alessandro Tosi. The carabinieri “thought it was a ship going from Savona to Barcelona. I called Savona. They said no, no ship had left from there. I asked the carabinieri for more information. They called the passenger’s daughter, and she said it was the Costa Concordia. ”

Six minutes after that first call, at 10:12, Tosi located the Concordia on a radar screen just off Giglio. “So then we called the ship by radio, to ask if there was a problem,” Tosi recalls. An officer on the bridge answered. “He said it was just an electrical blackout,” Tosi continues. “I said, ‘But I’ve heard plates are falling off the dinner tables—why would that be? Why have passengers been ordered to put on life jackets?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s just a blackout.’ He said they would resolve it shortly.”

The Concordia crewman speaking with the Coast Guard was the ship’s navigation officer, a 26-year-old Italian named Simone Canessa. “The Captain ordered … Canessa to say that there was a blackout on board,” third mate Silvia Coronica later told prosecutors. “When asked if we needed assistance, he said, ‘At the moment, no.’ ” The first mate, Ciro Ambrosio, who was also on the bridge, confirmed to investigators that Schettino was fully aware that a blackout was the least of their problems. “The captain ordered us to say that everything was under control and that we were checking the damage, even though he knew that the ship was taking on water.”

Tosi put the radio down, suspicious. This wouldn’t be the first captain who downplayed his plight in hopes of avoiding public humiliation. Tosi telephoned his two superiors, both of whom arrived within a half-hour.

At 10:16, the captain of a Guardia di Finanza cutter—the equivalent of U.S. Customs—radioed Tosi to say he was off Giglio and offered to investigate. Tosi gave the go-ahead. “I got back to the [ Concordia ] and said, ‘Please keep us abreast of what is going on,’ ” says Tosi. “After about 10 minutes, they didn’t update us. Nothing. So we called them again, asking, ‘Can you please update us?’ At that point, they said they had water coming in. We asked what sort of help they needed, and how many people on board had been injured. They said there were no injured. They requested only one tugboat.” Tosi shakes his head. “One tugboat.”

Schettino’s apparent refusal to promptly admit the *Concordia’*s plight—to lie about it, according to the Coast Guard—not only was a violation of Italian maritime law but cost precious time, delaying the arrival of rescue workers by as much as 45 minutes. At 10:28 the Coast Guard center ordered every available ship in the area to head for the island of Giglio.

With the Concordia beginning to list, most of the 3,200 passengers had no clue what to do. A briefing on how to evacuate the ship wasn’t to take place until late the next day. Many, like the Aho family, streamed toward the lifeboats, which lined both sides of Deck 4, and opened lockers carrying orange life jackets. Already, some were panicking. “The life jacket I had, a woman was trying to rip it out of my arms. It actually ripped the thing—you could hear it,” Joan Fleser says. “We stayed right there by one of the lifeboats, No. 19. The whole time we were standing there I only saw one crew member walk by. I asked what was happening. He said he didn’t know. We heard two announcements, both the same, that it was an electrical problem with a generator, technicians were working on it, and everything was under control.”

Internet videos later showed crewmen exhorting passengers to return to their staterooms, which, while jarring in light of subsequent events, made sense at the time: There had been no order to abandon ship. When Addie King, a New Jersey graduate student, emerged from her room wearing a life jacket, a maintenance worker actually told her to put it away. Like most, she ignored the advice and headed to the starboard side of Deck 4, where hundreds of passengers were already lining the rails, waiting and worrying. The Massachusetts newlyweds, Benji Smith and Emily Lau, were among them. “Some people are already crying and screaming,” Smith recalls. “But most people were still pretty well collected. You could see some laughing.”

For the moment, the crowd remained calm.

The island of Giglio, for centuries a haven for vacationing Romans, has a long history of unexpected visitors. Once, they were buccaneers: in the 16th century, the legendary pirate Barbarossa carted off every person on the island to slavery. Today, Giglio’s harbor, ringed by a semicircular stone esplanade lined with cafés and snack shops, is home to a few dozen fishing boats and sailboats. In summer, when the tourists come, the population soars to 15,000. In winter barely 700 remain.

That night, on the far side of the island, a 49-year-old hotel manager, Mario Pellegrini, was pointing a remote control at his television, trying in vain to find something to watch. A handsome man with a mop of curly brown hair and sprays of wrinkles at his eyes, Pellegrini was exhausted. The day before, he and a pal had gone fishing, and when the motor on their boat died, they ended up spending the night at sea. “The sea is not for me,” he sighed to his friend afterward. “You can sell that damn boat.”

The phone rang. It was a policeman at the port. A big ship, he said, was in trouble, just outside the harbor. Pellegrini, the island’s deputy mayor, had no idea how serious the matter was, but the policeman sounded worried. He hopped in his car and began driving across the mountain toward the port, dialing others on Giglio’s island council as he went. He reached a tobacco-shop owner, Giovanni Rossi, who was at his home above the harbor watching his favorite movie, Ben-Hur. “There’s a ship in trouble out there,” Pellegrini told him. “You should get down there.”

“What do you mean, there’s a ship out there?” Rossi said, stepping to his window. Parting the curtains, he gasped. Then he threw on a coat and raced down the hill toward the port. A few moments later, Pellegrini rounded the mountainside. Far below, just a few hundred yards off Point Gabbianara, was the largest ship he had ever seen, every light ablaze, drifting straight toward the rocks alongside the peninsula.

“Oh my God,” Pellegrini breathed.

After completing its desperate hairpin turn away from the open sea, the Concordia struck ground a second time that night between 10:40 and 10:50, running onto the rocky underwater escarpment beside Point Gabbianara, facing the mouth of Giglio’s little harbor, a quarter-mile away. Its landing, such as it was, was fairly smooth; few passengers even remember a jolt. Later, Schettino would claim that this maneuver saved hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives.

In fact, according to John Konrad’s analysis, it was here that Schettino made the error that actually led to many of the deaths that night. The ship was already listing to starboard, toward the peninsula. In an attempt to prevent it from falling further—it eventually and famously flopped onto its right side—Schettino dropped the ship’s massive anchors. But photos taken later by divers show clearly that they were lying flat, with their flukes pointed upward; they never dug into the seabed, rendering them useless. What happened?

Konrad says it was a jaw-droppingly stupid mistake. “You can see they let out too much chain,” he says. “I don’t know the precise depths, but if it was 90 meters, they let out 120 meters of chain. So the anchors never caught. The ship then went in sideways, almost tripping over itself, which is why it listed. If he had dropped the anchors properly, the ship wouldn’t have listed so badly.”

What could explain so fundamental a blunder? Video of the chaos on the bridge that night later surfaced, and while it sheds little light on Schettino’s technical decisions, it says worlds about his state of mind. “From the video, you can tell he was stunned,” says Konrad. “The captain really froze. It doesn’t seem his brain was processing.”

Schettino did make efforts, however, to ensure that the ship was firmly grounded. As he told prosecutors, he left the bridge and went to Deck 9, near the top of the ship, to survey its position. He worried it was still afloat and thus still sinking; he asked for that tugboat, he said, with the thought it might push the ship onto solid ground. Eventually satisfied it already was, he finally gave the order to abandon ship at 10:58.

Lifeboats lined the railings on both sides of Deck 4. Because the Concordia was listing to starboard, it eventually became all but impossible to lower boats from the port side, the side facing open water; they would just bump against lower decks. As a result, the vast majority of those who evacuated the ship by lifeboat departed from the starboard side. Each boat was designed to hold 150 passengers. By the time Schettino called to abandon ship, roughly 2,000 people had been standing on Deck 4 for an hour or more, waiting. The moment crewmen began opening the lifeboat gates, chaos broke out.

“It was every man, woman, and child for themselves,” says Brian Aho, who crowded onto Lifeboat 19 with his wife, Joan Fleser, and their daughter.

“We had an officer in our lifeboat,” Fleser says. “That was the only thing that kept people from totally rioting. I ended up being first, then Brian and then Alana.”

“There was a man who was trying to elbow Alana out of the way,” Aho recalls, “and she pointed at me, yelling in Italian, ‘Mio papà! Mio papà!’ I saw her feet on the deck above me and I pulled her in by the ankles.”

“The thing I remember most is people’s screams. The cries of the women and children,” recalls Gianmaria Michelino, the hairdresser. “Children who couldn’t find their parents, women who wanted to find their husbands. Children were there on their own.”

Claudio Masia, a 49-year-old Italian, waiting with his wife, their two children, and his elderly parents, lost patience. “I am not ashamed to say that I pushed people and used my fists to secure a place” for his wife and children, he later told an Italian newspaper. Returning for his parents, Masia had to carry his mother, who was in her 80s, into a boat. When he returned for his father, Giovanni, an 85-year-old Sardinian, he had vanished. Masia ran up and down the deck, searching for him, but Giovanni Masia was never seen again.

‘Someone at our muster station called out, ‘Women and children first,’ ” recalls Benji Smith. “That really increased the panic level. The families who were sticking together, they’re being pulled apart. The women don’t want to go without their husbands, the husbands don’t want to lose their wives.”

After being momentarily separated from his wife, Smith pushed his way onto a lifeboat, which dangled about 60 feet above the water. Immediately, however, the crew had problems lowering it. “This is the first part where I thought my life was in danger,” Smith goes on. “The lifeboats have to be pushed out and lowered down. We weren’t being lowered down slowly and evenly from both directions. The stern side would fall suddenly by three feet, then the bow by two feet; port and starboard would tilt sharply to one side or the other. It was very jerky, very scary. The crew members were shouting at each other. They couldn’t figure out what they were doing.” Eventually, to Smith’s dismay, the crewmen simply gave up, cranked the lifeboat back up to the deck, and herded all the passengers back onto the ship.

Others, blocked or delayed in getting into lifeboats, threw themselves into the water and swam toward the rocks at Point Gabbianara, 100 yards way. One of these was a 72-year-old Argentinean judge named María Inés Lona de Avalos. Repeatedly turned away from crowded lifeboats, she sat on the deck amid the chaos. “I could feel the ship creaking, and we were already leaning halfway over,” she later told a Buenos Aires newspaper. A Spaniard beside her yelled, “There’s no other option! Let’s go!” And then he jumped.

A moment later Judge Lona, a fine swimmer in her youth, followed.

“I jumped feetfirst I couldn’t see much. I began swimming, but every 50 feet I would stop and look back. I could hear the ship creaking and was scared that it would fall on top of me if it capsized completely. I swam for a few minutes and reached the island.” She sat on a wet rock and exhaled.

A French couple, Francis and Nicole Servel, jumped as well, after Francis, who was 71, gave Nicole his life jacket because she couldn’t swim. As she struggled toward the rocks, she yelled, “Francis!,” and he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” Francis Servel was never seen again.

The first lifeboats limped into the harbor a few minutes after 11.

By the time Giglio’s deputy mayor, Mario Pellegrini, reached the harbor, townspeople had begun to collect on its stone esplanade. “We’re all looking at the ship, trying to figure out what happened,” he recalls. “We thought it must be an engine breakdown of some kind. Then we saw the lifeboats dropping down, and the first ones began to arrive in the port.” Local schools and the church were opened, and the first survivors were hustled inside and given blankets. Every free space began to fill.

“I looked at the mayor and said, ‘We’re such a small port—we should open the hotels,’ ” Pellegrini says. “Then I said, ‘Maybe it’s better for me to go on board to see what’s going on.’ I didn’t have a minute to think. I just jumped on a lifeboat, and before I knew it I was out on the water.”

Reaching the ship, Pellegrini grabbed a rope ladder dangling from a lower deck. “As soon as I got on board, I started looking for someone in charge. There were just crew members, standing and talking on Deck 4, with the lifeboats. They had no idea what was going on. I said, ‘I’m looking for the captain, or someone in charge. I’m the deputy mayor! Where’s the captain?’ Everyone goes, ‘I don’t know. There’s no one in charge.’ I was running around like that for 20 minutes. I ran through all the decks. I eventually emerged on top, where the swimming pool is. Finally I found the guy in charge of hospitality. He didn’t have any idea what was going on, either. At that point the ship wasn’t really tilting all that badly. It was easy to load people into the lifeboats. So I went down and started to help out there.”

For the next half-hour or so, lifeboats shuttled people into the harbor. When a few returned to the starboard side, scores of passengers marooned on the port side sprinted through darkened passageways to cross the ship and reach them. Amanda Warrick, an 18-year-old Boston-area student, lost her footing on the slanting, slippery deck and fell down a small stairwell, where she found herself in knee-deep water. “The water was actually rising,” she says. “That was pretty scary.” Somehow, carrying a laptop computer and a bulky camera, she managed to scramble 50 feet across the deck and jump into a waiting boat.

While there was plenty of chaos aboard the Concordia that night, what few have noted is that, despite confused crew members and balky lifeboats, despite hundreds of passengers on the edge of panic, this first stage of the evacuation proceeded in a more-or-less orderly fashion. Between 11, when the first lifeboats dropped to the water, and about 12:15—a window of an hour and 15 minutes—roughly two-thirds of the people on board the ship, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,300 in all, made it to safety. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

Rescue at Sea

Ahelicopter arrived from the mainland at 11:45. It carried a doctor, a paramedic, and two rescue swimmers from the Vigili del Fuoco, Italy’s fire-and-rescue service. A van whisked them from Giglio’s airfield to the port, where the swimmers, Stefano Turchi, 49, and 37-year-old Paolo Scipioni, pushed through the crowds, boarded a police launch, and changed into orange wet suits. Before them, the Concordia, now listing at a 45-degree angle, was lit by spotlights from a dozen small boats bobbing at its side. The launch headed for the port bow, where people had been jumping into the water. As it approached, a Filipino crewman on a high deck suddenly leapt from the ship, falling nearly 30 feet into the sea. “Stefano and I swam about 30 meters to rescue him,” Scipioni says. “He was in shock, very tired, and freezing cold. We took him ashore and then went back to the ship.”

It was the first of six trips the two divers would make in the next two hours. On the second trip they pulled in a 60-year-old Frenchwoman floating in her life jacket near the bow. “Are you O.K.?” Turchi asked in French.

“I’m fine,” she said. Then she said, “I’m not fine.”

Next they pulled in a second Frenchwoman in an advanced state of hypothermia. “She was shaking uncontrollably,” Scipioni recalls. “She was conscious, but her face was violet and her hands were violet and her fingers were white. Her circulatory system was shutting down. She kept saying, ‘My husband, Jean-Pierre! My husband!’ We took her ashore and went back.”

On their fourth trip they lifted an unconscious man into the police launch; this was probably the woman’s husband, Jean-Pierre Micheaud, the night’s first confirmed death. He had died of hypothermia.

By 12:15 almost everyone on the *Concordia’*s starboard side had fled the ship. Among the last to go were Captain Schettino and a group of officers. After leaving the bridge, Schettino had gone to his cabin to grab some of his things, before rushing, he said, to help with the lifeboats. Minutes later, the Concordia began to roll slowly to starboard, falling almost onto its side. For a moment there was complete chaos as many of those still on the starboard side, including the second and third mates, were forced to dive into the water and swim for the rocks. It was at that point, Schettino famously claimed, that he lost his footing and fell onto the roof of a lifeboat. The captain later said his lifeboat plucked three or four people from the water.

Moments before the ship rolled, Giglio’s deputy mayor, Mario Pellegrini, scurried through a passageway, crossing the ship in an effort to help those still on the port side. “When we finished putting them on the boats, there was hardly anyone left on the right side of the boat,” Pellegrini recalls. “That’s when the ship started to tilt more. So I ran through a corridor, to the other side of the ship, and over there there were lots of people, hundreds, more than 500 probably.”

When the ship began to roll, “I couldn’t understand what was going on, the movement was so violent,” says Pellegrini. “Suddenly it was difficult to stand. It was very disorienting. If you took a step forward, you fell. You couldn’t tell which way was up or down. You couldn’t walk. All the people were forced against the walls. That’s when the panic hit, and the electricity went out as well. Lights winking out all over. And when the ship stopped moving, we were in the dark, just the moon, the light of the full moon. And everyone was screaming.” The ship’s chief doctor, a rotund Roman named Sandro Cinquini, was already on the port side. “The ship actually fell gently,” Cinquini recalls. “That was the worst time. People were trapped in the middle [of the ship] as it turned and the water began to rise.”

When the Concordia came to rest once more, its landscape was hopelessly skewed. With the ship lying almost on its right side, walls now became floors; hallways became vertical shafts. Pellegrini was on Deck 4, in a covered corridor with about 150 passengers; beyond was an open deck, where another 500 or so were struggling to regain their footing. When he was able to stand, Pellegrini glanced into the corridor behind—now below—him, and to his horror, he could see seawater surging toward him, as it was all across the starboard side of the ship, inundating the lowest decks and gushing into the restaurants on Deck 4. This was almost certainly the single deadliest moment of the night, when at least 15 people probably drowned. “That’s when I started getting afraid, for myself,” Pellegrini says. “And there were people still down there. You could hear them screaming.”

The screams seemed to be emanating from behind a single hatchway. Pellegrini, working with Dr. Cinquini and another crewman, threw his weight into lifting this door, which was now on the floor. When it came free, he looked down a near-vertical hallway 30 feet long. “There were people down there—it was like they were in a well filling up with water,” Pellegrini says. A crewman grabbed a rope and, swiftly making knots in it, dropped it down to those trapped below. “Four or five of us all began pulling people up from below. They came up one at a time. The first one who came out, a woman, she was so surprised, she came up feetfirst. I had to reach down and pull her out. We took out nine people in all. The first one had been in water up to her waist, the last one was in to his neck. The worst was an American guy, really fat, like 250 pounds, tall and obese; he was hard to get out. The last one was a waiter—his eyes were terrified. The water was freezing. The water was so cold, he couldn’t have survived much longer.”

“He told us there were others behind him,” says Dr. Cinquini, “but he could no longer see them.”

The ship’s roll trapped scores of passengers. Earlier, a Southern California family, Dean Ananias, his wife, Georgia, and their two daughters, aged 31 and 23, had boarded a lifeboat on the port side but were forced to return on board when the *Concordia’*s list rendered the port-side boats useless. Crossing to starboard, they were standing in a darkened hallway, inching forward near the end of a long line of people, when Dean heard the crash of plates and glasses and the ship started to roll.

People began to scream. The family fell to the floor. Dean felt sure the ship was turning completely over, as seen in The Poseidon Adventure. To his amazement, it didn’t. Once the ship settled, the Ananiases found themselves stomach-down on a steep incline; Dean realized they had to crawl upward, back to the port side, which was now above their heads. They grabbed a railing and managed to pull themselves almost all the way to the open deck at the top. But five feet short of the opening, the railing suddenly stopped.

“We started trying to pull ourselves up,” recalls Dean, a retired teacher. “We got up against the wall, and that’s when my daughter Cindy said, ‘I’m gonna launch myself up, push me up and I’ll grab a railing.’ She did it. So did the others. I knew they couldn’t pull me up because I’m larger, so I pulled myself into a frog position and jumped as high as I could.” He made it. But even then, with dozens of people slipping and sliding all around them and no officers in sight, Dean couldn’t see a way off the ship. “I knew we were going to die,” he recalls. “We all just started praying.”

Someone called from below. Turning, they saw a young Argentinean couple, clearly exhausted, holding a toddler. They hadn’t the energy to jump upward. The woman beseeched Georgia to take the child. “Here,” she pleaded, raising the three-year-old, “take my daughter.” Georgia did, then thought better of it. She handed the infant back, saying, “Here, take the child. She should be with you. If the end is going to happen, she should be with her parents.” (They evidently survived.)

While Dean Ananias pondered his next move, Benji Smith and his wife had already crossed to the port side amidships. A crewman urged them to go back. “No, that side is sinking!” Smith barked. “We can’t go there!”

After a few minutes, Smith was startled to see his in-laws approach; on a crewman’s order, they had returned to their rooms and, unable to understand the English-language announcements, had remained inside so long they missed the lifeboats. At that point, Smith recalls, “we were listing so severely the walls were slowly turning into floors, and we realized that if we don’t make a decisive move quickly, if we want to jump, we won’t be able to.” Boats were bobbing far below; at this point, anyone who leapt from a port railing would simply land further down the hull. Somehow, Smith saw, they had to get closer to the boats. The only obvious way down was along the outer hull, now tilted at a steep angle. It was like a giant slippery slide, but one Smith could see was far too dangerous to use.

Then he saw the rope. Hurriedly Smith tied a series of knots into it, then tied one end to the outer railing. He explained to his frightened relatives that their only option was to rappel down the hull. “We hugged each other and said our good-byes, and I told everyone, ‘I love you,’ ” Smith says. “We really felt, all of us, that dying was in the cards.”

Smith was among the first over the side. With the ship listing to starboard, the angle wasn’t that steep; in two bounds he made it to Deck 3 below. His family followed. Looking up, Smith saw worried faces staring down at them.

“The language barriers made it difficult to talk, but using our hands and waving, we got a bunch of people down to the third deck,” Smith says. “Then I re-tied the rope to the railing on Deck 3, thinking we could climb down this rope and position ourselves to jump in the water, or the boats. So we started climbing down the rope, all six of us. And then, up above us, a steady stream of people began to follow.”

Soon, Smith estimates, there were 40 people hanging on to his rope at the ship’s midsection, among them the Ananias family. What they should do next, no one had a clue.

A Huge Black Buffalo

The Coast Guard helicopter base responsible for operations in the Tyrrhenian Sea is a cluster of office buildings and hangars in the town of Sarzana, 130 miles northwest of Giglio. Its commander, a ruggedly handsome 49-year-old named Pietro Mele, had been asleep when the first call came in from the operations center. Not until a second call, at 10:35, just minutes before the Concordia ran aground, was he told that the ship in trouble carried 4,000 people. “Holy shit,” Mele said to himself. The largest rescue his unit had ever attempted was a dozen people plucked from a sinking freighter off the city of La Spezia in 2005.

Mele called in every available pilot. By the time he reached the base, at 11:20, the first helicopter, a slow-moving Agusta Bell 412 code-named “Koala 9,” was already rising from the tarmac for the hour-long flight south. A half-hour later a second helicopter, a faster model code-named “Nemo 1,” followed suit. “We expected to find something there all lit up, a floating Christmas tree, but instead what we found was this huge black buffalo lying on its side in the water,” Mele recalls.

Both helicopters were, figuratively and literally, operating in the dark. There was no chance of communication with anyone on board; the only way to assess the situation, in fact, was to lower a man onto the Concordia. The pilot of Nemo 1, Salvatore Cilona, slowly circled the ship, searching for a safe spot to try it. For several minutes he studied the midsection but determined that the helicopter’s downdraft, combined with the precarious angle of the ship, made this too dangerous.

“The ship was listing at 80 degrees, so there was incredible risk of slipping off,” recalls Nemo 1’s rescue diver, Marco Savastano.

Moving toward the bow, they saw clusters of people waving for help. Savastano, a slender Coast Guard veteran with a receding hairline, thought he could alight safely on a slanting passageway beside the bridge. At about 12:45, Savastano climbed into a “horse collar” harness and allowed himself to be winched down to the ship. Extricating himself, he dropped through an open door into the total blackness inside the bridge. To his surprise, he found 56 people clustered inside, most pressed against the far wall.

“What really struck me was the total silence of these 56 people,” he remembers, shaking his head. “The look on their faces was totally fixed, just an empty look. They were in a state of unreality. It was very dark. I asked if anyone was injured. No one was hurt seriously. I tried my best to calm them down.”

After Savastano radioed in the situation, a second diver, Marco Restivo, joined him on the bridge. It was clear the older passengers were in no shape to walk far. Savastano and Restivo decided to begin winching people up to the helicopters. Savastano chose an especially shaken Spanish woman, about 60, to go first. “She didn’t want to leave her husband,” he recalls. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry about it. As soon as I get you on board, I will come back for your husband.’ ”

By the time Savastano was ready to return to the Concordia, the pilot had spotted two passengers in a precarious position, sitting on an open door about 25 feet below the bridge. “We just saw flashing lights, so we followed the lights down,” Savastano recalls. Reaching the open door, he found two Asian crew members, begging for rescue. “Their faces, they were just so terrified,” he recalls. “They were in such a dangerous position, I had to give them priority. It was very tricky because the space was so tight. Every movement of the helo put us at risk. If it moved just a little, the passengers would strike the side of the ship and be crushed. Me too. I went down and began to try to rescue them, but I kept slipping. The floor was very slippery, and the ship was so tilted. The first guy, I got him into the strap, but he wouldn’t stay still. I had to keep pushing his arms down, so he wouldn’t fall out [of the horse collar]. When I finally got him up [to the helicopter], he just fainted.”

Savastano returned to the ship, and had just begun winching the second crew member aloft when, to his surprise, a porthole suddenly opened and a ghostly face appeared. “Fuck!” he shouted.

Savastano raised a clenched fist, signaling the winch operator to stop lifting him. The face belonged to one of five passengers who were stuck on a lower deck with no way out. “Then the pilot told me we only had two minutes left—we were running out of fuel—so I said to these people, ‘Don’t move! We will be right back!’ ” With three passengers now aboard, Nemo 1 wheeled into the night sky and headed to the town of Grosseto to refuel.

Before his lifeboat had reached the rocks, Captain Schettino’s cell phone rang once more. This time it was one of the Coast Guard supervisors at Livorno, Gregorio De Falco. It was 12:42.

“We’ve abandoned ship,” Schettino told him.

De Falco was startled. “You’ve abandoned ship?” he asked.

Schettino, no doubt sensing De Falco’s dismay, said, “I did not abandon the ship … we were thrown into the water.”

When De Falco put down the phone, he stared at the officers beside him in amazement. This violated every tenet of maritime tradition, not to mention Italian law. “The captain had abandoned ship with hundreds of people on board, people who trusted him,” says De Falco’s boss, Cosma Scaramella. “This is an extremely serious thing, not just because it’s a crime.” For a moment he struggles to find a word. “This,” he goes on, “is an infamy. To abandon women and children, it’s like a doctor who abandons his patients.”

The lifeboat carrying Schettino and his officers did not head into the harbor. Instead, it disgorged its passengers at the nearest land, along the rocks at Point Gabbianara. A few dozen people were already there, most of them having swum. “I noticed the captain did not help, in any way,” a crewman told investigators, “neither in the recovery of people in the water, nor in coordinating rescue operations. He remained on the rocks watching the ship sink.”

Giglio’s rock-jawed police chief, Roberto Galli, had been among the first islanders to pull alongside the Concordia, in a police launch, just after it ran aground. At 12:15, having returned to the docks to coordinate rescue efforts, Galli glanced into the distance and noticed something strange: a set of twinkling lights—“like Christmas lights,” he recalls—on the rocks at Point Gabbianara. With a start, Galli realized the lights must be from life preservers, meaning there were survivors, probably cold and wet, out on the boulders at the water’s edge. He grabbed two of his men and drove two miles from the port to a roadside high above the Concordia. From there, navigating by the light of his cell phone, Galli and his officers stumbled down the barren slope. He fell twice. It took 20 minutes.

When he reached the rocks below, Galli was stunned to find 110 shivering survivors. There were women, children, and elderly, and few spoke any Italian. Galli and his men called for a bus and began herding them all up the rocky slope toward the road above. Returning to the water’s edge, he was surprised to find a group of four or five people who had remained behind. He glanced at the *Concordia’*s giant gold smokestack, which was looming toward them; he was worried it might explode.

“Come, come!” Galli announced. “It’s too dangerous to stay here.”

“We’re officers from the ship,” a voice replied.

Galli was startled to find himself talking to Captain Schettino and another officer, Dimitrios Christidis. As several people observed, the captain was not wet.

“I was shocked,” Galli recalls. “I could see on the ship there were major operations going on. I could see helicopters lifting passengers off the ship. I said, ‘Come with me. I’ll take you to the port, and then you can get back to the ship,’ because I thought that was their job. Schettino said, ‘No, I want to stay here, to verify conditions on the ship.’ For about 30 minutes, I stayed with them, watching. At one point, Schettino asked to use my telephone, because his was running out of juice. I wasn’t giving this guy my phone. Because, unlike him, I was trying to save people. Finally, when I was about to leave, they asked for a blanket and tea. I said, ‘If you come back with me, I’ll give you whatever you want.’ But he didn’t move. So I left.”

Not long after, at 1:46, the angry Coast Guard officer, De Falco, telephoned Schettino once more. The captain was still sitting on his rock, staring glumly at the Concordia. De Falco had heard there was a rope ladder hanging from the bow of the ship. “Schettino? Listen, Schettino,” he began. “There are people trapped on board. Now you go with your boat under the prow on the starboard side. There’s a rope ladder. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear? I’m recording this conversation, Captain Schettino.”

Schettino tried to object, but De Falco wasn’t having it. “You go up that rope ladder, get on that ship, and tell me how many people are still on board, and what they need. Is that clear? … I’m going to make sure you get in trouble. I’m going to make you pay for this. Get the fuck on board!”

“Captain, please,” Schettino begged.

“No ‘please.’ You get moving and go on board now … ”

“I am here with the rescue boats. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“What are you doing, Captain?”

“I am here to coordinate the rescue … ”

“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Are you refusing?”

They bickered another minute. “But you realize it’s dark and we can’t see anything,” Schettino pleaded.

“And so what?” De Falco demanded. “You want to go home, Schettino? It’s dark and you want to go home?”

Schettino offered more excuses. De Falco cut him off one last time.

“Go! Immediately!”

Later, I asked De Falco’s boss, Cosma Scaramella, whether he thought the captain was in shock. “I don’t know,” Scaramella told me. “He didn’t seem very lucid.”

A half-hour or so after his last call from the Coast Guard, a rescue boat plucked Schettino from his rock and ferried him to the harbor. He talked to the police for a bit, then found a priest, who later said the captain, in a daze, cried for a very long time.

By one A.M., with the Concordia now lying almost flat on its side, between 700 and 1,000 people remained on board. Clumps of people were scattered throughout the ship, many clinging to railings. About 40 were hanging on Benji Smith’s rope amidships. Almost everyone else had congregated in a panicky crowd of 500 or more toward the stern, on the port side of Deck 4, facing the sea. Many of these had taken refuge in a cramped passageway; others remained on the deck outside. Dozens of boats had gathered, about 60 feet below—the Coast Guard later counted 44 different craft in use by dawn—but there was no easy route to them.

To date, no one has identified exactly who found the long rope ladder and tossed it down to the water. One of the boatmen below, the tobacco-shop owner Giovanni Rossi, recalls a Filipino crewman who scaled up and down it several times, trying to coordinate a rescue. According to Mario Pellegrini, who was mired in the chaos above, two crewmen worked with him to supervise the aborning escape attempt: the doctor, Sandro Cinquini, and especially young Simone Canessa, the same officer who earlier in the evening told the Coast Guard the ship had suffered only a blackout. Canessa’s role in the evacuation has not been mentioned publicly; yet according to Pellegrini, he was the single most effective crewman still working to evacuate the ship during the long night’s most harrowing hours.

“When I got up there and saw Simone, he was the boss, he was the only one up there really helping,” says Pellegrini. “When he realized I was there to help, he saw we could work together. He was fantastic. Simone, I think, created this whole escape route. He was at the top. I did my best to help him.”

“I am not a hero: I did my job,” Canessa told VANITY FAIR in a brief telephone interview. “I did everything I could to save everyone I could.”

It was Canessa, Pellegrini believes, who found an aluminum ladder and leaned it skyward, onto the outer railing of Deck 4, which was now above their heads. A passenger could climb this ladder to the railing above, then, grabbing the rope ladder, scoot on his rear down the hull to the boats. It was risky, but doable. The problem was establishing an orderly procedure. “The only way out, for everyone, was this small aluminum ladder,” Pellegrini says. “When the ship fell and panic first hit, everyone threw themselves at this ladder. They had no regard for anyone else. It was horrible. I just remember all the children crying.”

“A crowd is an ugly monster if there is panic,” says Dr. Cinquini, who tried in vain to calm people. “No one was listening to me. They were running up and down, slipping, ready to throw themselves in There were a lot of children. You couldn’t convince them [to calm down]. People were out of their minds. The fathers, who are often more fragile than the mothers, were losing it, while the mothers were trying to maintain a certain level of calm.”

“There was a couple with a small child, a three-year-old in a life jacket,” Pellegrini recalls. “When the mother went on the ladder, the father tried to lift the child up. As he’s doing that, someone else shoves in front. The mother is pulling the life jacket; the father holds on; the kid is almost choking. It was horrible. I started yelling at people, ‘Don’t be animals! Stop being animals!’ I shouted this many times, to allow the children in. It had no effect.”

“People were shouting, crying; people were falling over; there was total panic,” recalls a 31-year-old advertising salesman named Gianluca Gabrielli, who managed to climb the ladder with his wife and their two small children. Outside, on the hull, “I felt alive,” Gabrielli says. “I had gotten out. I saw the patrol boats, the helicopters. People were somehow calmer up here. I felt better. I took one child, my eldest, Giorgia. My wife took the other. We started going down the rope ladder clutching each child in front of us as we went down on our bottoms. We were afraid the wood in between the rope ladder would break. I told the kids to think it was just like going down the ladder of their bunk beds, to think of it like an adventure. Me? I felt like Rambo on the Titanic. ”

The crowd began to calm only when Pellegrini and Cinquini managed to herd many of them out of the packed passageway onto the open deck alongside. “From there we could see the stars,” recalls Cinquini. “It was a beautiful night, calm and indifferent to the chaos. Once out in the open the people saw the land was close by and that calmed them.”

Slowly, order returned. Pellegrini took control of the line to the aluminum ladder, holding children while parents climbed, then handing them up. Somewhere fuel had spilled, however, and footing on the inclined deck had become treacherous. The hardest part came when passengers reached the top of the ladder and confronted the long, thin rope ladder descending to the sea. “It was incredibly difficult,” says Pellegrini. “The parents didn’t want to let go of the children. The kids didn’t want to let go of the parents. The most difficult were the elderly. They didn’t want to let go [of the railing] and descend. There was this one woman, it took 15 minutes to move her. She was so frightened, I had to physically pry her fingers free.”

One by one, people inched down the rope ladder, most scooting on their rear ends. Dozens of people were on the ladder at once. Infra-red footage from the helicopters shows the incredible scene, a long spray of tiny darkened figures on the outer hull, clinging to the rope ladder, looking for all the world like a line of desperate ants. “No one fell—not one,” Pellegrini says with a smile. “We didn’t lose a single person.”

At the bottom of the rope ladder, boats took turns picking up the exhausted passengers, helping them jump down the last five or six feet to safety. Giovanni Rossi and his crew alone managed to ferry at least 160 of them safely into the harbor.

Abandoning Ship

Not everyone made it to safety, however. Among those lending help on Deck 4 was the kindly 56-year-old hotel director, Manrico Giampedroni. As people shimmied down the hull, Giampedroni spied a group at the far end of the ship. “I wanted to go and rescue these people,” he told the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, “because at times a word of comfort, the sight of a uniform, or a friendly person is enough to inspire courage. Staying in a group is one thing; alone is much more difficult. I headed to the bow, walking on the walls; the ship was so tilted you had to stay on the walls.”

As he walked, Giampedroni tapped on the doors now at his feet, listening for responses that never came. He didn’t bother trying any of them; they all opened from the inside. Or so he thought. He had just stepped on a door outside the Milano Restaurant when, to his dismay, it gave way. Suddenly he was falling into darkness. He slammed into a wall about 15 feet down, then tumbled down what felt like half the ship, finally landing, ominously, in seawater up to his neck. He felt a stabbing pain in his left leg; it was broken in two places. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was inside the restaurant, now a vast, freezing swimming pool jammed with floating tables and chairs. He realized the water was slowly rising.

Giampedroni managed to crawl atop the metal base of a table, balancing himself on one leg, as he shouted and shouted and shouted for help.

No one came.

The line of people on Benji Smith’s rope remained there for two solid hours, bathed in spotlights from the boats below. It was cold; their arms ached. When the helicopters hovered overhead, everyone shouted and waved their arms.

“The boats didn’t know what to do, how to get close,” Smith says. “Finally one of the lifeboats came back. The crew had to stabilize it, but with all the waves from the other boats, it kept crashing into the ship. Crash crash crash crash. It had this little gate, like three feet wide. We needed to jump down three or four feet into the gate, but the boat is moving back and forth, crashing into the hull. Someone could easily lose their legs if they don’t jump just right.” The crewmen below tried holding on to the end of Smith’s rope, but when the boat lurched, so did the rope, triggering panicked shouts up and down its length. Finally, Smith and his wife, along with several others, decided to leap onto the lifeboat’s roof. “We heard this crunching noise when we landed,” he says. “But we made it.”

When the lifeboat was finally stabilized, the crewmen slowly helped the others off the rope. In this way about 120 more people escaped unharmed.

By five o’clock almost all of the 4,200 passengers and crew had made it off the ship, by lifeboat, jumping into the water, or scuttling down ropes and ladders on the port side. Rescue divers had returned and winched 15 more into helicopters; the last passengers on the bridge were slowly led down to the rope ladder. Fire-rescue teams had begun climbing onto the ship, looking for stragglers. As they searched, the only people they found were Mario Pellegrini; Simone Canessa; the doctor, Sandro Cinquini; and a Korean hostess who had slipped and broken her ankle. “I put it in plaster,” says Cinquini. “I hugged her the whole time because she was shaking. Then a short time later everything was done. The four of us could go down. But the deputy mayor stayed.”

“Once everything was done, there was a bit of calm,” says Pellegrini. “[Canessa and I] took a megaphone and [started] calling to see if anyone was still on board. Up and down Deck 4, we did this twice. We opened all the doors, shouting, ‘Is anyone there?’ We didn’t hear any response.”

They were among the last to leave the Concordia. Pellegrini climbed down the rope ladder and a few minutes later found himself standing safely on the harbor’s stone esplanade. As the sun began to rise, he turned to Cinquini. “Come on, Doctor, I’ll buy you a beer,” he said, and that is what he did.

All that night and into the dawn, hundreds of exhausted passengers stood along the harbor or huddled inside Giglio’s church and the adjacent Hotel Bahamas, where the owner, Paolo Fanciulli, emptied every bottle in his bar—for free—and fielded calls from reporters all over the world.

By midmorning passengers began boarding ferries for the long road home. It was then, around 11:30, that Captain Schettino materialized at the hotel, alone, asking for a pair of dry socks. A TV crew spotted him and had just stuck a microphone in his face when a woman, apparently a cruise-line official, appeared and herded him away.

All day Saturday, rescue workers fanned out across the ship, looking for survivors. Sunday morning they found a pair of South Korean newlyweds still in their stateroom; safe but shivering, they had slept through the impact, waking to find the hallway so steeply inclined that they couldn’t safely navigate it. Somehow, though, no one found poor Manrico Giampedroni, the hotel director, who remained perched on a table above the water in the Milano Restaurant. He could hear the emergency crews and banged a saucepan to get their attention, but it was no use. When the water rose, he managed to crawl to a dry wall. He stayed there all day Saturday, his broken leg throbbing, sipping from cans of Coke and a bottle of Cognac he found floating by. Finally, around four A.M. Sunday, a fireman heard his shouts. It took three hours to lift him from his watery perch. He hugged the fireman for all he was worth. Airlifted to a mainland hospital, Giampedroni was the last person taken off the ship alive.

The toll of the dead and missing climbed to 32. By mid-March, all but two of their bodies had been found. A few, it appears, perhaps seven or eight, died after jumping into the water, either from drowning or hypothermia. Most, however, were found inside the ship, suggesting they had drowned when the Concordia rolled a little after midnight.

A Hungarian violinist, Sandor Feher, helped several children put on life jackets before heading back to his cabin to pack his instrument; he drowned. One of the most heartbreaking stories involved the only child to die, a five-year-old Italian girl named Dayana Arlotti, who drowned with her father, William. He had severe diabetes, and the two may have gone back to their cabin to retrieve medicine. Mario Pellegrini thought they might be the panicked father and daughter he saw late that night, running back and forth on Deck 4, asking for help.

Three months after the disaster, investigations into the wreck of the Concordia plod onward. Captain Schettino, who remains under house arrest at his home near Naples, could face multiple charges of manslaughter and illegally abandoning his ship once formally indicted. Persistent leaks suggest that another half-dozen officers, as well as officials at Costa Cruises, could eventually face charges. In March, a dozen survivors and their families filed into a theater in the coastal city of Grosseto to give testimony. Outside, the streets were jammed with reporters. Few believed they would see justice for those who died aboard the Concordia, at least not anytime soon. “At the end of all this,” one man predicted, “it will all be for nothing. You wait and see.”

The Concordia itself remains where it fell that night, on the rocks at Point Gabbianara. Salvage workers finally managed to drain its fuel tanks in March, lessening the possibility of environmental damage. But the ship will take an estimated 10 to 12 months to remove. If you study it today from the harbor at Giglio, there is something unearthly about the ship, a sense, however slight, that it has suddenly appeared from a bygone era, when ships still sank and people died. This was something that several survivors remarked on afterward, that amazingly, in a world of satellites and laser-guided weapons and instant communication almost anywhere on earth, ships could still sink. As the Italian survivor Gianluca Gabrielli said, “I never believed this could still happen in 2012.”

cruise ship italy sank

Bryan Burrough

Special correspondent, cocktail hour.

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Italy's giant cruise wreck begins final voyage as survivors look on

The Costa Concordia cruise liner is seen during its refloat operation at Giglio harbour on July 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy (AFP) - Italy's Costa Concordia will set sail on its final voyage on Wednesday as survivors look on, two and a half years after the luxury cruise ship crashed and sank in a nighttime disaster that left 32 people dead.

The rusting liner, which has been floated from its watery grave in the biggest salvage operation of a passenger ship ever performed, will be towed away to the port of Genoa in northwest Italy to be dismantled and scrapped.

Surviving passengers who have returned to Tuscany's Giglio island will gather with locals and holidaymakers to bid a final farewell to the once-magnificent cruise ship.

"We hope that many of our feelings (from the night of the disaster) will leave when the boat leaves. And that as it goes on its way, we can finally go on ours," said Anne Decre from the French Survivors' Collective, as she clutched the hand of friend Nicole Servel, whose husband died in the disaster.

The ship - roughly twice the size of the Titanic - will be dragged up the Corsica channel by two tug boats at a speed of just two knots (3.7 kilometres, 2.3 miles) per hour, and is expected to reach Genoa in four days, weather permitting.

- Emergency evacuation plan -

The length of three football fields, the crippled vessel will first be manoeuvred into position by British and Spanish tug boats in a complex operation beginning at 0630 GMT (2.30pm Singapore time).

A Dutch tug boat and a Vanuatu-flagged one will then tow the 290-metre (951-foot) vessel away around 1000 GMT, while 12 other boats will sail in a convoy alongside, carrying divers, engineers, a medical team and environmental experts.

South African salvage master Nick Sloane - who has described removing the ship as the "biggest challenge" of a career that has taken him to six continents and two warzones - said he was ready to "wave goodbye to Giglio".

A 17-person team of salvage workers will be on the Concordia itself during the journey.

Precision sensors attached to the sides of the ship will monitor for possible cracks in the crippled hull, while underwater cameras will watch for debris washing out of the vessel amid fears toxic waste could spill into the sea.

Objects floating free such as suitcases, clothes and furniture will be caught in a huge net while infrared sensors will be used to detect possible oil leaks at night.

Engineers last week used vast air tanks attached to the ship's sides to float the liner, which rose above the waves deck by deck to reveal gaping windows, a rust-tainted bow and the faded Costa Concordia emblem on its flanks.

The doomed ship struck rocks just off the Mediterranean island on the night of January 13 with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, just as many passengers were sitting down for supper on the first night of their cruise.

The crash tore a massive gash in its hull and the ship veered sharply as the water poured in, eventually keeling over and sparking a panicky evacuation.

- 'My last day alive' -

Pablo Lazaro, a 66-year-old Spanish survivor who had been on the cruise with his wife and stepson, said the terror of that night - with people throwing themselves into the icy sea in a bid to survive - would never leave him.

"When I was getting into the lifeboat amid all the chaos I thought this might be my last day alive," he said as he gazed out at the wreck from the port.

Lazaro joined fellow survivors in throwing flowers into the sea at the shipwreck site in a solemn ceremony on Tuesday.

The body of Indian waiter Russel Rebello is still missing and there will be a search for his remains when the ship is dismantled.

The ship's captain Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated - even though he has claimed that he fell into a lifeboat.

Dubbed Italy's "most hated man" by the Italian media after the disaster, he found himself in hot water again on Tuesday after photographs emerged of him partying on the island of Ischia while the final preparations were being made to tow away the wreck.

Four other crew members and an executive from the ship's owner Costa Crociere, the biggest cruise operator in Europe and part of the US giant Carnival, have already plea-bargained and been convicted on lesser charges.

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Costa Concordia: Ten years on pianist recalls terrifying escape from the capsized cruise liner

Ten years on from the tragedy, Antimo Magnotta has revealed how he still has "terrible flashbacks" and can remember people's screams as the enormous vessel tipped over off the coast of Italy.

Thursday 13 January 2022 17:06, UK

Antimo Magnotta was a pianist on the Costa Concordia cruise ship

On 13 January 2012, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Tuscany after hitting a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the cruise liner, was jailed for 16 years for multiple manslaughter after the disaster that left 32 people dead.

On the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, the ship's Italian pianist Antimo Magnotta, who is now living and working in London, has relived his terrifying ordeal and told Sky News how he is still tormented by flashbacks from what he witnessed.

I was working in a very elegant bar at the back of the ship called Bar Vienna. I remember it was a beautiful night, a starry night, the sea was very calm and quiet.

Then all of a sudden the ship suddenly swerved and started tilting. It was really unexpected because the conditions at sea meant it made no sense for this to happen.

I thought to myself - "did we hit a whale or a giant monster or something?".

I fell over and the piano started drifting on stage. I left the bar and found myself stumbling along sloping corridors with passengers and crew members. I was heading to the centre of the ship where there would be more balance.

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When I got there I found myself with other crew members and passengers on this huge dancefloor. We were expecting some instructions, some kind of explanation, but the ship began to have multiple blackouts and power failures.

The ship was performing some very strange movements, it was tilting on one side and then slowly titling on the other side, I was thinking to myself - "what is this?".

More than 30 people died when the cruise ship capsized

Passengers and crew members were screaming and calling out names. We couldn't see each other in the darkness.

It was quite cinematic I must say, it looked like a David Lynch film actually.

Finally, after more than an hour, the emergency signal on board was sounded.

I was a pianist, but I was also a crew member, and I had been trained to carrying out certain duties in an emergency.

I reached my master station and was in charge of a roll call for 25 crew members to embark on a life raft. I remember four people on my list were missing.

I was expecting a crew member from the bridge (the room where the ship is commanded) to come downstairs and lead myself and my crew members to our designated life raft.

But no one came from the bridge, and of course the ship, in the meantime, was still performing this very macabre choreography of slowly capsizing.

While the ship was tipping over I was confronted with a portrait of an ongoing tragedy, a grotesque paradox.

People left the vessel on rescue boats after it hit a rock

It was like being inside a cabinet of horrors. I mainly remember the sounds - there was this cacophony from the bowels of the ship. People were screaming.

I describe the ship in this moment as being like a swan in agony. It was suffering.

I eventually saw a crew member dressed all in white carrying a box of walkie talkies. I asked him what was going on.

He whispered: "Don't you know? We hit a rock, and this caused a massive leak on the side of the ship."

He was very agitated, he was running on adrenaline, and said: "You know what, the best suggestion would be for you to run for your life, and if you can, abandon the ship."

I thought this must be some kind of joke, but then he just vanished.

Everyone was really panicking and end up scattering all around.

Antimo Magnotta, centre, was working on the ship when it hit a rock in January 2012

This was the very beginning of my personal nightmare, because I had to perform a gruelling evacuation of the ship.

I knew where the life raft I was supposed to get on was located, and I knew it would now be under water.

I was 41 at the time and said to myself I can't die, this must be a joke.

But I started thinking about my daughter and this triggered a reaction in me, so I started climbing on some metallic bars, some ladders, pipes, whatever I could find in my way.

It took some time, but I found myself on the flank of the ship outside, facing the dark sea, holding onto a winch, a crane, I was holding on to this rope like I was clinging on to life itself.

Mr Magnotta is pictured on a vessel during happy times

All I had to do was just wait to be rescued, It was difficult because it was pitch dark, the most difficult thing to do was to make myself visible.

This lasted pretty much four hours.

The ship was more or less on it side by this point, breaching at a very dramatic angle, maybe 80 to 85 degrees, if not more.

It was like the carcass of a stranded whale. I could feel and hear the death rattle of the ship.

When I was on the flank of the ship I felt something is deteriorating, disintegrating, my image, my story, was fading away, it was vanishing, "I can't die," I said to myself.

I was not alone of course, there was a bunch of between 35 to 40 people around me, passengers and crew members.

I could see rescue boats and there was very frantic activity in the water. Helicopters were hovering above but they didn't seem to see us.

The ship's captain Francesco Schettino was jailed for 16 years after the disaster

Eventually a little rescue boat was sent for us, and I will always say, jumping in this little rescue boat was like jumping back to life.

It was 3am, more than five hours after the ship hit the rock, that the rescue boat dropped me off at Giglio Island.

It was like celebrating a second birthday, it was the beginning of my second life.

Unfortunately, later on, I learned that two fellow musicians had lost their lives. My friend, a Hungarian violinist, who lost his life, had just gone down to his cabin.

I just thought to myself what if it had been the other way round?

This has haunted me for a long time.

cruise ship italy sank

In the aftermath of the disaster I was devastated and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

I had mental scars still lingering, survivor's guilt and chronic insomnia. I couldn't play the piano anymore. I had a stone in my chest and not a heart.

I took up a new form of self-therapy and started writing, and I would cry sometimes of course.

It was a way to express myself and my anger.

These days I feel much better and I play the piano in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Now I am feeling much better, but still I have terrible flashbacks and insomnia - my sleep is always interrupted.

Trending Today

The Wrecked Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Is Finally Being Towed Away

The ship’s remains will be broken down for scrap metal

Rachel Nuwer

Rachel Nuwer

costa

The MS Costa Concordia , the Italian cruise ship that killed 32 people when it sank off the coast off Isola del Giglio in 2012, has just been sitting off the Tuscan coast ever since. This morning, though, the ship was successfully refloated, the Guardian reports . Environmentalists are relieved since the ship has been marring a marine sanctuary for more than two years, while local residents say they are looking forward to no longer having to see a giant wreck each time they look out to sea. 

Removing the ship entirely, however, will be no easy task. For starters, it's twice as big as the RMS Titanic , the Guardian  points out. So far, however, the plan seems to be working: 

Air was pumped slowly into 30 tanks or "sponsons" attached to both sides of the 290-metre, 114,500-tonne Concordia to expel the water inside, raising it two metres (6.5 feet) off the artificial platform it has rested on since it was righted in September. It will now be towed away from the shore and moored using anchors and cables. Thirty-six steel cables and 56 chains will hold the sponsons in place.

There are going to be substantial risks before the Costa Concordia is gone for good ,  however. As CNN writes , the ship's rotting hull could break off as it is jostled about, which would cause lengthy delays. Or, it could just fall apart entirely. "The worst case scenario is that the ship falls apart during the first six hours as it's raised off the platform -- or that it breaks up somewhere off the coast of Corsica, which is where the Mediterranean's currents are the strongest," CNN continues. Some environmental groups, like Greenpeace, are also concerned that the Costa Concordia will leave a trail of leaky toxic waste in its wake, CNN adds. 

The Costa Concordia 's planned final destination is Genoa, Italy, where it will be broken down into scrap metal. Experts estimate that that process could take as long as two-and-a-half years, CNN writes. 

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.

Rachel Nuwer

Rachel Nuwer | | READ MORE

Rachel Nuwer is a freelance science writer based in Brooklyn.

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 2

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 3

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 4

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 5

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 6

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 7

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 8

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 9

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 10

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 11

cruise ship italy sank

Emily Lau 'Sanctus'

On the luxury ship Costa Concordia, a dancer pursuing her dream career, a triathlete, newlyweds and second-honeymooners, all end up in a struggle to survive when the ship runs aground off the Italian coast. March 2, 2015

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Fire breaks out on world's largest cruise ship

CNNWire logo

Crew on board the world's largest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas, were called on to tackle a fire this week as the gigantic vessel was berthed in a port in Mexico.

The "small fire" was "quickly extinguished" after it broke out on Tuesday, the ship's operator Royal Caribbean spokesperson confirmed to CNN Travel. The cruise line said there were no injuries and the overall on board impact was "minimal."

The video featured is from a previous report.

The record-breaking Icon of the Seas - which is nearly 1,200-foot-long and 250,800 gross tons - was docked in Costa Maya, Mexico when the incident occurred. The vessel briefly lost power, but back-up power was activated right away.

The Royal Caribbean spokesperson confirmed crew members controlled the blaze, explaining all crew are trained to handle such situations.

During the incident, on-board announcements alerted passengers about what was happening, according to the cruise line. Social media users on an Icon of the Seas Facebook group spoke of minor disruption to their day, but proceedings were quickly back to normal.

The $2-billion Icon of the Seas made headlines when the vessel launched earlier this year, with its seven swimming pools - including a record-breaking 17,000-square-foot water park. The vessel's current itinerary hasn't been impacted by the fire and the ship is now en route to the Mexican island of Cozumel.

In March, a fire broke out on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship, with footage captured by a passenger of the ship's tail ablaze.

Speaking to CNN Travel, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said minor fires are "not common, but also not uncommon" on cruise ships, but are usually handled swiftly and with minimal disruption to passengers.

(The-CNN-Wire & 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.)

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Iraqi girl raped, killed by fellow migrant on stranded ship: reports.

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Italian authorities are investigating the horrifying killing of a 16-year-old Iraqi girl allegedly raped and choked to death by a fellow migrant as their boat sank 120 miles off the coast of southern Italy.

The suspect, who is also from Iraq, supposedly attacked the teen in a rage after he saw his wife and daughter drown when the crowded migrant boat caught fire and capsized on June 17, the news agency AGI reported .

About 75 people were on board the ship when it capsized 120 miles off of southern Italy.

The girl was allegedly strangled in front of her mother, who reported the killing to the Italian state police after she, the killer and a few other survivors were rescued and brought to the Calabrian port of Roccella Ionica, Corriere Della Sera said.

The suspect, 27, was arrested on suspicion of voluntary homicide after the grieving mother’s account was backed up by other witnesses, the outlet reported.

“We are carrying out further investigations,” the local prosecutor, Giuseppe Casciaro, told Corriere Della Sera.

The bodies of some of the 64 migrants missing in the Mediterranean Sea after their ship wrecked off Italy's southern coast are disembarked at the Italian southern port-city of Roccella Ionica.

While the investigation is ongoing, the suspect is reportedly being held at the Catanzaro prison, where he was transferred after being hospitalized for injuries sustained in the shipwreck.

The suspect, the victim and her mother were among about 75 Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian migrants on board the doomed boat, which left Turkey in mid-June.

The group had been at sea for about eight days when the boat’s motor caught fire on the night of June 16, causing the craft to capsize.

The suspect is reportedly being held on suspicion of voluntary murder.

Only 12 survivors were pulled from the wreck hours later. One of the rescued women later died on shore.

As of last week, the Italian coast guard had retrieved the bodies of 36 victims from the choppy waters off the Calabrian coast.

On Tuesday, security forces in Kurdistan, Iraq, announced that four suspects had been arrested on charges of human trafficking in connection with the incident, the New Arab reported.

The central Mediterranean migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, experts said. As of late June, over 800 people have died or have gone missing and are presumed dead while crossing the sea, according to the United Nations.

With Post wires

About 75 people were on board the ship when it capsized 120 miles off of southern Italy.

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Oceania cruises floats out new ship allura at fincantieri shipyard in genoa, italy.

MIAMI , July 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ --  Oceania Cruises , the world's leading culinary- and destination-focused cruise line, has marked an important milestone in the construction of its new 1,200-guest ship, Allura, at the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri Ponente, Italy , bordering the famed seaport of Genoa . A landmark moment as the ship moves towards completion, the vessel was floated from the dry-dock and moved to the fitting-out berth to begin outfitting the luxurious, designer-inspired interiors.

The ship was blessed by the shipyard's chaplain, Father Stefano, in a low-key ceremony in deference to the recent passing of General Claudio Graziano , Chairman of Fincantieri. Allura' s shipyard Madrina, Caterina Romeo , a designer in Fincantieri's technical department, christened the ship as is traditional, endowing blessings upon the vessel and all who embark upon her.

"Our hearts and minds are with the entire team at Fincantieri as they mourn the passing of General Graziano," stated Frank A. Del Rio , President of Oceania Cruises.

"The float out is an important moment for all at Oceania Cruises and Fincantieri, as we progress closer to Allura joining our family. Now that we have completed her shell, we are excited to get started on her interior. We have lots of exciting enhancements on Allura , our eighth vessel, further elevating our offerings and firmly cementing Oceania Cruises as the only ultra-premium cruise brand."

Allura  is striding quickly towards her debut and is now entering the final stages of construction focusing on her opulent suites, sophisticated lounges, and exceptional restaurants, all embodying Oceania Cruises' commitment to culinary excellence and destination immersion. Allura promises to be a masterpiece of refined design and innovative offerings, setting new standards in the cruise industry.

Allura  will officially enter service from Trieste, Italy , on July 18, 2025 , cruising six days to Athens, Greece , calling at gems in the Eastern Mediterranean including Rijeka, Croatia ; Ravenna, Italy ; Dubrovnik, Croatia ; and Kotor, Montenegro . Following her summer season in the Mediterranean, Allura will sail to Canada and New England for a series of immersive voyages in North America before her premiere winter season in the Caribbean , homeporting in Miami . As part of her inaugural collection, Allura will also be conducting a one-of-a-kind four-day voyage sailing roundtrip from New York City in September 2025 .

Allura is the eighth vessel for Oceania Cruises and the line's second 1,200-guest Allura Class ship. She follows her sister ship, Vista , which launched to great global acclaim in May 2023 .

Allura highlights include: 

A new onboard crêperie, serving freshly made-to-order crêpes and waffles, as well as decadent ice cream sundaes in the afternoon.

A luxurious new library, featuring walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, oversized chairs and plush residential furnishings, located just steps away from LYNC Digital Center, the ship's digital and social hub, as well as ever-popular Horizons.

One chef for every 10 guests, and 50% of crew members are dedicated to culinary experiences.

Five specialty dining venues, including the line's newest signature restaurants, Ember and Aquamar Kitchen, at no extra cost.

1,200 guests served by 800 crew members; two crew members for every three guests.

The most spacious standard staterooms at sea, at an astounding 291 square feet.

Hundreds of immersive shore excursions and tours to choose from on each sailing.

Onboard enrichment, including art classes at Oceania Cruises' much-loved Artist Loft, numerous guest speakers and sommelier demonstrations during exclusive Sommelier's Choice and Cellar Master's Classic Wine Pairing Luncheons.

An expansive hands-on Culinary Center and accompanying Chef's Studio, where epicurean secrets will be shared by the talented onboard chef instructors.

For additional information on Oceania Cruises' small-ship luxury product, exquisitely crafted cuisine, and expertly curated travel experiences, visit OceaniaCruises.com , call 855-OCEANIA, or speak with a professional travel advisor.

About Oceania Cruises Oceania Cruises is the world's leading culinary- and destination-focused cruise line. The line's eight small, luxurious ships carry a maximum of 1,250 guests and feature The Finest Cuisine at Sea and destination-rich itineraries that span the globe. Expertly curated travel experiences are available aboard the designer-inspired, small ships, which call on more than 600 marquee and boutique ports in more than 100 countries on seven continents, on voyages that range from seven to more than 200 days. Oceania Cruises has two additional ships on order scheduled for delivery in 2027 and 2028 or 2029 1   Oceania Cruises is a wholly owned subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: NCLH). To learn more, visit  www.nclhltd.com .

1  Delivery for the second Oceania Cruises ship is contractually scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2028, but may be delayed to 2029.

View original content to download multimedia: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/oceania-cruises-floats-out-new-ship-allura-at-fincantieri-shipyard-in-genoa-italy-302186925.html

SOURCE Oceania Cruises

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Italy’s coast guard searches for dozens of migrants missing after their ship capsized

cruise ship italy sank

By The Associated Press

Posted Jun 19, 2024 11:37:29 AM.

Last Updated Jun 19, 2024 12:31:50 PM.

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s coast guard was searching by sea and from the air on Thursday for dozens of people missing when a boat capsized and partially sank earlier this week in the perilous central Mediterranean, officials said.

The partially submerged boat was still in view, but the commander of the search operation said that no bodies were in sight. The boat capsized about 195 kilometers (120 miles) off the Calabrian coast.

A fishing boat was the first to respond on Monday after the boat capsized and rescued 12 people, one of whom later died. Italy’s coast guard has recovered six bodies, and survivors say more than 60 people are missing. They include more than 20 children.

Survivors reported that the boat motor had caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast about eight days after departing from Turkey with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board, according to the U.N. refugee agency and other U.N. organizations.

A spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders said that the survivors have suffered both psychological and physical trauma, and “remained very confused.”

“They have been hospitalized … and don’t yet know who in their families is alive and who died at sea,’’ said Cecilia Momi, in charge of the group’s humanitarian affairs. “Entire families are destroyed. Some lost a wife, some lost a child, a husband, a friend, a nephew.”

Separately on Monday, the charity rescue ship Nadir rescued 51 people from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh and transported them to Lampedusa. Another 10 people on the same smugglers’ boat were found dead on the lower deck.

The deaths bring to more than 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year, an average of five dead a day, the U.N. agencies said.

The International Red Cross said that the tragedies are “another testament to Europe’s failing approach to migration and asylum , which prioritizes walls and deterrence over humane welcome.”

Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

This story has been corrected to show that 12 survivors were rescued, not 11. One of them later died.

The Associated Press

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Princess cruise ship hits dock in San Francisco

cruise ship italy sank

A Princess Cruises ship hit a dock at Pier 27 in San Francisco Thursday morning.

The line’s Ruby Princess vessel “made unexpected contact” with the dock at 6:05 a.m. local time on arrival at the Port of San Francisco, a Princess spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“There were no injuries and at no time were any guests or crew in danger,” the spokesperson said. “The ship is safely alongside and disembarkation is complete.” The ship was returning from a round-trip sailing to Alaska that departed on June 26, according to CruiseMapper .

"I noticed we were spinning pretty quick, to be that close to the dock, and I was mid-ship, portside, looked out the window and we smacked into the dock," passenger Paul Zasso told the Bay Area’s ABC7 News .

Cruise insurance: Should you buy it through a cruise line? Maybe not, experts say

The Princess spokesperson said an assessment of the damage to the vessel and pier were underway. While the departure time of its next voyage “is still being determined,” embarkation began at 11:30 a.m. local time.

The incident is not the only one of its kind in recent years. MSC Cruises’ MSC Opera ship hit a dock and tourist river boat in Venice, Italy in 2019 and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic crashed into a dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico earlier that year.

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].

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