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.

iReport: Are you there? Send photos, videos and tell your story

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. Andreas Moser

    The racism in Italy becomes evident when you contrast this rescue mission with the welcome for the refugees from a different ship:

    January 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rocco

      It is such a shame that this could happen in the middle of the worst global economic recession in a very long time. All of those people hanging out having lobster when the rest of Europe is going bankrupt, and the end of the EU, gosh I feel terrible. That cold cold water must have been terrible. Well at least now they know symbolically what it has been like for the rest of everyone else.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Note to Rocco: The travel and vacation industry support hundreds of thousands, perhaps MILLIONS of jobs all over the world. Most of that money (unlike foreign aid, which goes into numbered Swiss accounts) goes to actual families and people. Things are bad enough. If you work for the travel industry, you'd feel different, I guarantee it.


      January 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • woodofpine

      Rocco – that's bone headed 'loser' comment. OK – world economics stink, but people still work-vacation-retire-travel. Costa is a budget cruise line as they go. You're ignorance is only surpassed by your cold heart. I suppose a airliner wreck would leave similar victions for you to bash. In fact, a cruise fare is cheaper than many longer distance airfares... But you sound like one that's only been complaining lately – how'd you know?!.

      January 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      @Rocco, do you think that someone who's better off than others somehow deserves tragedy? Not everyone made it off of the ship, you know, and 1,000 of the people on it were staff. Many others were probably given the trip as a gift, or had saved for years to pay for this trip. I hope you find some compassion deep in that heart of yours.

      January 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ishmael

    I'd like to travel without having to look where the vehicle was going, but I like to drive, too, so that I know that any errors will be minimized as far as I can minimize them.
    If the map is truly in error, was it the map they were actually using or did they bring it out after the crash?
    There are many ways to cover one's ass. Or they might have been acting with all due diligence.
    Yet we already have heard that they were lax in following safety rules. That doesn't look good at all.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Waterboard Alice from the Brady Bunch

    Why is the Statue of Liberty the standard unit of measure to compare big things to?

    January 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bureau of Standards

      The National Big Things Comparison Act (93rd Congress) mandates that all big things be compared graphically to the Statue of Liberty, a Boeing 747, and the Empire State Building. In text, the standard is so many American football fields.

      January 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Not Philip.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NN

    I think the captain was using one of those table place setting maps.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    @ Rocco:
    Most people who take cruises do not eat lobster and baked Alaska every night. They save a long time and go on a vacation once a year or less. For many, a cruise or a trip to Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mmmmm ♔♕

    captain probally was drinkin' too much of that duty-free tax alcohol...

    January 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. international press

    Le Monde (parisian newspaper) is reporting that the captain steered the ship so close to the island as a personal favor to one of the restaurant managers.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dee

    Of course the company is going to blame the captain – who else are they going to point to?

    January 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I haven't been on a large ship for decades.
    I have one of those dreams that may never happen, our taking an ocean crossing on the Queen Mary 2 with my best friend and his wife.
    He was a champion swimmer, breaking Junior Olympic records, and he will not travel on a ship any farther than a point from which he can swim to shore.
    I wonder whether I'm supposed to learn something from him or not.
    I watched the Queen Mary 2 sail into the NYC harbor for the first time. It was magnificent, and I still want to sail on that ship.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      After this, your friend might decide it's wiser not to travel on a ship any closer than a point from which he can swim to shore.

      January 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Leave it to Green Peace- Sixteen people are missing, and they're fretting about the marine life . . .

    January 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brianne


    January 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BOMBO ©

    I only took a cruise ship once. (I'm not so old yet.) It was just the best way to get around the Eastern Mediterranean at the time. I was on a line that lost one of it's ships the previous year. I had no idea until after I came back home. Apparently the Captain and crew abandoned the passengers there to fend for themselves. The entertainers helped organize the rescue. So much for trusting the crew with your lives. You can look up the incident here:

    In harbour one day, I took a picture of the biggest ship I'd seen, much bigger than the one I was on. It turned out to be the Achille Lauro. It had a history before then, and would be hijacked a couple of years later.

    Grandpa, you're rambling again.........

    January 16, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Sorry, the Achille Lauro was hijacked a few years before. It sank a few years later. Grandpa gets confused when he hasn't had his nap.

      January 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RUFFNUTT ( words with friends world champion )

    well atleast the flying dutchman will have alot of fresh crew members..

    January 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sanjosemike

    This reminds me about the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The hotel employees risked their lives to try to save hotel guests. In many cases this resulted in the employees' death. Ordinary Indians on the street tried to help too, and were murdered in the process. A number of police and an intelligence officer was murdered by the terrorists in hand to hand combat.

    A maid working for the Jewish Center in Mumbai saved an infant by carrying it away in front of the terrorists. It was amazing that both were not killed. The infant's parents were tortured, murdered and mutilated by the Islamic terrorists. The damage against this husand and wife was so severe that even forensic pathologists had great difficulty with their examination.

    We should remember the strength and courage if Indians. This is a time to remember THEM.


    January 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
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