January 19, 2012
(Updated 2 p.m. EST) -- As the world watches events unfold off the tiny Italian island of Giglio, accounts from those who survived the disaster continue to surface. What follows is a selection of first-hand accounts gathered from various news sources that describe the events surrounding the capsizing of Costa Concordia, and its aftermath:
A first-hand account from a survivor of the Concordia has been posted on our boards, signed by Michelle. She recounts a terrifying scene boarding the lifeboats: "We were left alone as the abandon ship sirens screamed, we grabbed a coat and shoes in place of high heels our life vests, put them on and headed for the lifeboats ... The lifeboat filled to capacity and they shut the door, people screamed the door was purshed open and people continued to enter the boat overflowing it ... Eventually an Indian engineer came who said he should be the driver the gate was sealed and they started to drop the boat, it was horryfying the boat was too heavy it lurched all of as standing were thrown to the floor the boat stuck on the side of the ship with men desperately trying to lever it off the side of the boat."
Mario Pellegrini, the deputy mayor of Giglio, actually went onto the sinking ship and shares his experience of assisting with the rescue effort, as he could not find any senior officers onboard (via the BBC): "There were a lot of people who wanted to help but there was no-one guiding them; there was nobody directing anything....At the beginning there wasn't much panic, just a lot of confusion. People didn't know what to do but there was no real fear. Then I went on the right-hand side of the ship and it started tilting towards the sea. Big parts of the ship were going underwater - then panic erupted, people really were scared." (For the full story, go to the BBC Web site.) James Thomas, 19, a British dancer who worked on Concordia, used his body as a "human ladder" to help get passengers off the ship (via the Daily Mail): "We couldn't get the lifeboats off and the liferafts the staff use were stuck to the side of the ship. I grabbed a lifeboat with one arm and the upper deck rail with the other and let people climb on my shoulders and down my body. The last people I helped were a Frenchman and his disabled wife. He grabbed me by the cuff and pulled me into one of the boats. It was frightening.' American Patrick Capito swam to shore after several attempts to board lifeboats (via MSNBC): "We went to the first lifeboat. It hit the side railing and we got out of there. The second lifeboat, the same thing. When we got into a raft, the water was up to our necks. So we got into the water and swam to shore. I didn't really feel the water until I got out. Then it was freezing."
American Nancy Lofaro successfully made it to shore via lifeboat. But it wasn't easy (via CNN): "At one point we were being lowered, and we were sliding off to one side. Everyone fell into one side of the boat and were slamming into the ship. This happened a few times over 30 seconds. And finally we were lowered into the water level. It took 30 minutes to get to shore ... the lifeboats were slamming into each other. It was chaos."
Amanda Warrick and her brothers watched from the incapacitated ship as all of the lifeboats departed without them. They waited another one and a half hours to be rescued; she said she wondered several times if they would die (via CNN): "I just remember standing on the decks. There were barely any people left. Waiting was definitely the worst, because we didn't know who was going to be coming, how much longer we would have to wait."
Assistant bartender Oscar Rodriguez, one of 53 crew members from Peru, said he isn't sure whether he will continue to work aboard a cruise ship (via the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio): "I don't know. After this experience, we all feel very confused. Even with the latest technologies, we have many doubts [about safety]."
Benji Smith, from Boston, said he fashioned his own rope ladder to save him and his wife (via CNN): "I felt like the disaster itself was manageable, but I felt like the crew was going to kill us. [Everyone] who walked past shouted instructions, but the instructions contradicted each other."
Nicole Servel, 61, the widow of Frenchman Francis Servel (via Agence France-Presse): "I owe my life to my husband. He said to me 'jump, jump'. And as I don't know how to swim, he gave me his life jacket. I was hesitant about jumping. So he went first. Then I jumped. I floated on my back. I called to him, he shouted back: 'Don't worry! I'll be all right.' The water was barely eight degrees. And then, I never saw him again."
Melissa Goduti, 28, of Wallingford, Connecticut (via Associated Press): "It was so unorganized, our evacuation drill was scheduled for 5 p.m. We had joked 'What if something had happened today?'" Sandra Cook, whose daughter Kirsty -- a dancer on the ship -- was one of the 37 Brits onboard the cruise ship (via BBC News): "Thank God she got off safely and survived it … I asked whether she had anything, she'd lost everything, and she said that she was lucky to be alive and very thankful." Christine Hammer, 65 from Bonn, Germany, describing dinner on her first cruise ever (via Associated Press): "We heard a crash. Glasses and plates fell down and we went out of the dining room and we were told it wasn't anything dangerous." Mike van Dijk, a 54-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa (via Associated Press): "We had to scream at the controllers to release the boats from the side. We were standing in the corridors and they weren't allowing us to get onto the boats. It was a scramble, an absolute scramble." Alan and Laurie Willits from Wingham, Ontario, were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and watching a magic show when the ship lurched and started to list (via Associated Press): "And then the magician disappeared." Italian hairdresser Roberto Bombardieri, onboard as part of hair-stylist training course called “Lookmaker 2012” (via Italian news Web site Vincenza Today): “We were at dinner, and around at 9:40 we heard a loud noise. The plates and cutlery fell on the floor, and the lights went out and triggered panic. At first the staff told us to stay quiet, not to worry, but in the meantime we noticed that the ship was tilting more and more dangerously to one side.” Italian passenger Antonietta Sintolli, 65 (via Reuters): "I was sure I was going to die. We were in the lifeboats for two hours, crying and holding on to each other. People were trying to steal lifejackets from each other. We could only get one [made] for children." Fabio Costa, a shop worker on the ship (via BBC News): "Everything happened really fast. Everybody tried to get a lifeboat and people started to panic. A lot of people were falling down the stairs and some were hurt because things fell on them. Everybody was trying to get on the boats at the same time. When people had to get on the lifeboats they were pushing each other. It was a bit chaotic. We were trying to keep passengers calm, but it was just impossible. Nobody knew what was going on. We were on the same level as the water so some people started to swim because they weren't able to get on the lifeboats."
Monica, a German passenger, who was in Concordia's theater when it began to suffer problems (via BBC News): "It was difficult to walk. First it moved once, then to the left and then more on the right. The boat was tipping one side. You could see the ship was sinking more and more. In half an hour it sank halfway into the water." Steffano, a 21-year-old from Buenos Aires, who was on the ship with his mother, two brothers and girlfriend (via Italian news agency ANSA): “I saw desperate people. All around me screaming and terror but also uncertainty about what to do. In my opinion, we were not adequately helped by the crew to abandon ship.” Jose Rodriguez, 43, a Honduran barman who has worked for the cruise company for 14 years (via Agence France Press): “It was dark, we were all really frightened but we were lucky to be close to land."
--by John Deiner, Managing Editor, and Elissa Leibowitz Poma, Cruise Critic Contributor