Cruise ship disaster: A search for survivors and answers
The Costa Concordia cruise ship lies partially submerged off the Italian island of Giglio
January 16th, 2012
01:09 PM ET

Cruise ship disaster: A search for survivors and answers

On board the Costa Concordia, thousands of passengers were dining, drinking, attending a magic show, perhaps trying their luck in the casino.

It was Friday night on the luxury cruise liner, sailing in the Mediterranean off the Italian coast with about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members - a night of entertainment and relaxation.

There was annoyance, but no real alarm, when the lights went out - not at first. Passenger Vivian Shafer said she thought it was part of the magic show.

Then, a magical night turned into a nightmare.

Those on board then heard an ominous scraping sound, and the 951-foot vessel gave a shudder. The ship began to list to one side.

Photos: See high-resolution images of the ship

Graphic shows relative size of ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship.

The ship was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members when it ran aground Friday night.

5 facts about the Costa Concordia cruise ship

Now, rescue efforts continue as the ship's operator and prosecutors try to figure out exactly what happen and who is to blame.

Rescue efforts continue

After a brief suspension, rescue efforts resumed Monday on the partially sunken cruise liner Costa Concordia, officials said.

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The ship struck rocks Friday night and rolled onto its side, leaving at least six people dead.

The search was suspended earlier Monday because the vessel began to move, said Sergio Ortelli, mayor of the nearby island of Giglio.

Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marino said efforts had resumed, adding that rescuers will focus on retrieving the body of a man, presumably a passenger, discovered earlier in the day. However, he said the forecast has rescuers worried, as it calls for rising winds. The head of the company that owns the ship said Monday he has not given up hope of finding survivors.

"Hope is the last thing to die," said Costa Cruises chairman and chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi. About 16 people remained unaccounted for as of Monday following the collision off the Italian coast on Friday evening.

Rescuers brave cold, darkness to scour listing cruise ship

 What exactly led to cruise ship disaster?

By all accounts, things went bad the moment the ship struck rocks Friday night and rolled onto its side.

But what led up to that moment?

Why was the ship  so close in to shore in an area where local sailors say the sea bed is pockmarked with rocks? What happened in the minutes after the ship ran aground? Why was no "mayday" distress signal sent?

Costa Cruises issued a statement saying "preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's master, Captain Francesco Schettino."

"The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the captain's judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures," the statement added.

Costa Cruises chairman and chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi placed blame for the wreck squarely on the captain, however, saying Schettino had deviated from frequently traveled routes.

"The captain decided to change the route and he went into water that he did not know in advance," Foschi said. He said the company was limited in its ability to investigate the incident because they did not have the data recorder.

Italian prosecutors Monday ruled out a technical error as the cause of the incident, saying the captain was on the bridge at the time and had made a "grave error."

Captain Francesco Schettino is under arrest and may face charges including manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship when passengers were still on board, Italian prosecutor Francesco Verusio said.

Schettino denies the assertion that he had steered the ship too far inland.

"We were about 300 meters (1,000 feet) from the shore, more or less," Schettino said after the accident.

There was a "lateral rock projection," he said.

"Even though we were sailing along the coast with the tourist navigation system, I firmly believe that the rocks were not detected, as the ship was not heading forward but sideways, as if underwater there was this rock projection," he said.

Environmental concerns

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has warned that if oil leaks from the stricken cruise liner  it could cause an environmental disaster, threatening marine life including birds, whales and sharks.

The vessel - containing hundreds of tons of fuel oil - is now partially submerged off the Italian island of Giglio, which lies inside the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals.

The sanctuary was set up 10 years ago in an agreement between France, Italy and Monaco, with about half of it existing in international waters. Pelagos is a haven for many marine species including the fin whale, sperm whale, bottlenose dolphin, tuna, swordfish and sharks, as well as supporting sea bird populations.

Costa chairman and chief executive Foschi confirmed that the vessel is carrying 2,300 tons of oil, split between heavy fuel oil and gas oil.

"It is in a sea we want to protect," he said. "We are taking steps to avoid environmental issues."

In a statement, Costa Cruises said: "We have engaged the services of a worldwide leader, a specialized salvage company to develop an action plan and help establish a protection perimeter around the ship."

Greenpeace is concerned that other toxic substance that may be on board - such as lubricants and paints - could spill into the sea and get into the food chain.

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Filed under: Italy • Travel
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    @six degrees reality was falsely convicted of least that was his stage name.the media will do a good job of distorting reality for you.according to the media he went 4 miles off course to wave at someone.i seriously doubt that was true.what do u know about maritime navigation?i own two boats,a small bass boat and a sail first job as a teenager was a deckhand on a crab boat.2 yrs later i was running that boat alone while the captain was elsewhere in the united i am a crane operator/mechanic loading and unloading cargo on ships.i work on the mississippi where river pilots commandeer those very same ships to navigate them through the tricky areas.again with maritime experience i will tell u proper safety protocol to save a sinking a ship is to run it aground.the captain is however in some serious trouble for abandoning ship.thats against international law. if u get your reality from the media then your reality is distorted.

    January 17, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. hamsta

    @tyokol i like your sense of humor and there is some reality to it.obama is following the same navigation errors that sank greece.notice i said follow,thats the definition of leading from behind.

    January 17, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. kodi

    if they are only rufly 108 feet from shore why dont they let every one jump ship and swim to shore. they all have life jackets on!

    January 17, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. Stephen Clemens

    If vin diesel were there he would just push the ship back over and punch the captain in the face

    January 18, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jonathan Milkiewicz

    They should just get a big truck or piece of machinery to drag that ship right up out the the ocean

    January 18, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Billy (from texas)

    they didn't have enough life jackets, and ^ good luck getting a truck that big ya dummy..... Yeah Vin Diesels the man

    January 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shakesha dennis williams

    I think they yal just need a sent some more of them white folks down there kooba diving

    January 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Charles

    well what ever they do god bless the ones lost and there families

    January 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stephen Clemens

    yo jon milk hook your honda up try and pull it out

    January 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. daveWclark

    My heart goes out to the ones who suffered a painful and miserable death. Especially, by being affirmed that everything is ok, and go on back to your cabins. So another words go to your cabins to die. Having trust in the Staff of one of the supposedly safest Cruise-Liners on the Seas. I understand the staff was only doing what they were told. But, If my loved-ones were told to go to your coffin, instead of taking action to get off the ship, I too would expect some sort of compensation. (Shut that Compnay Down)!

    January 22, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dhow Cruise Dinner in Dubai

    Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marino said efforts had resumed, adding that rescuers will focus on retrieving the body of a man, presumably a passenger, discovered earlier in the day. However, he said the forecast has rescuers worried, as it calls for rising winds

    February 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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