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. Kerry

    Unfortunate it happened at night. So near yet so far. This will be a tourist attraction for the town if they leave it. They can sell ticket to divers who want to penetrate the depths of the ship. This is what they do in other locations, might as well capitalize on it.

    January 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ritmocojo

    Get that close to shore you should expect to hit bottom sooner or later.

    January 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mark James

    does anybody have any info on the people that died. Names??

    January 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mrs.Fizzy

      Haven't seen any but they were quick to say none of them were Americans. :/

      January 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Prose53

    Anyone who has grown up on or near the water knows this captain screwed up major big-time. The captain is the last person off. End of story. t's an oath captains take, like the hippocratic oath that physicians take. Even the local villagers wondered why he was so close to the shore, in an area (from the videos I've seen) is sprinkled with rock outcroppings and probably shoals. No excuse. Prosecute him as best you can using sea charts and radar.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      More importantly, the captain's presence on board until all passengers and crew are safely off (within reason) is maritime law. A report yesterday stated that the Coast Guard located the captain on land and ordered him back to his ship; he refused.

      January 17, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. CTYank

    This is not like sailing races, where you try to "kiss" the turn buoys. This is driving a 1000' ship, with thousands aboard depending on your judgement for their safety. There's nothing this master could have done worse before and after the incident, and ... until a couple of years ago he was Safety Officer for the line. Gross incompetence and total malfeasance.
    I want to see how they get the ship off the rocks without tearing the tanks open.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    No actual facts have been released yet but from what little I can glean from it the Capt may NOT have been at fault, the ship was apparently on course when it hit the rock that was jutting out underwater and tore open its hull and is still lodged in its side. This was near the stern below the water line near or in the engine rooms, this caused the power to go out immediately probably making it impossible to send out a distress call and preventing intership communications to one ascertain how bad the damage was below and two to give evacuation orders. Once it became clear to the capt that the ship was in serious trouble and might not make it to port he made the right decision to alter course and head into land in the hopes of grounding the ship so it would not sink entirely and the passengers may not need to abandon ship at sea. But apparently the hole was so large that the ship was listing severely in minutes making getting into life boats impossible on the port side and difficult on the starboard side (a flaw with all ships if they list fast), Then as the ship neared shore it hit a sandbar and became grounded this also probably made the ship list over even farther faster to where it rests now. Technically the capt succeeded it preventing the ship from sinking and placed it where people were in shallow water near a town only about 60 ft from rocks and not much further from shore. So technically all the 4200 could have safely stayed on the ship by climbing up to the top and wait to be rescued but of course they didnt know that it would stabilize where it did when it did. I will say I think the capt and officers should have stayed on board to the last and could even still be there as its clear the ship isnt going to sink further its laying on the bottom. It is standard procedure if your ship is sinking and you can see land to try and run aground if you have time so in this he did the right thing. Alot of people including the news media are mistaken he did NOT head off course and into shore and then hit rocks the ship hit the rock far away from this area while still out to sea it was only after he feared it was sinking fast did he alter course and headed into shore to try and run aground to safe the passengers and crew.

    January 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skeptic

      You're saying he couldn't issue a distress call because the power was out. Did he not have a cellphone or any other means of communication? Heck, it looks like a toy whistle could have alerted someone on land from that proximity.

      January 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • AlyD

      The ship IS sinking further into the ocean, by about 3 inches already, which is why rescue efforts were aborted for several hours today, as rescuers feared that the rough seas and increased winds would cause the ship to slide more dramatically into the nearby deeper sea bed, submerging the ship in its entirety. The ocean floor isn't actually flat, so there is still quite a risk of the ship continuing to sink.

      January 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • MS

      He couldn't have been " apparently on course" and shredded his ship's hull on a rock at the same time. That would mean that every other cruise that successfully passed that point was "off course". Your logic fails from the beginning.

      January 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Your analysis doesn't match well at all with reality.

      January 17, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    It's pretty obvious what happened.

    January 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. M

    Too bad Capt Sullenberger wasn't at the helm

    January 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris Carr

    "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 focus needs to be on the human beings still inside the ship, whether they are alive or dead...humans will always be paramount in importance and focus

    January 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. gstalb3


    January 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • VegasRage

      Probably texting

      January 17, 2012 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Brian Rayl

    This video is unwatchable. The camera keeps moving around in the studio to much. I stopped it part way through and went to another news source.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hamsta

    @john what u said is very logical.thats why my first comment was to not rush to judgement.i have an ongoing conversation with banasy and kandi about 2 news stories where im from that the media has all mixed up.ive lived on the water in louisiana my whole life and have plenty of experience with boats and are describing proper protocol in emergency this current time the only thing i can fault the captain for is abandoning ship with crew and passengers unaccounted for.

    January 17, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. hamsta

    furthermore people have to much blind faith in navigation gps screws up all the time.they even make commercials about that.navigation systems malfunctions have made the devils triangle and the bermuda triangle so infamous that the alien conspiracy people think they maybe gateways to another dimension.

    January 17, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. hamsta

    As far as the ship being off course 4 miles isnt far.i walk further than that for fun.the ocean is millions of square miles in area.he so little off course i would say its the equivalent of swerving into a ditch to avoid hitting the car in front of u.he may just be 4 miles off course intentionally to avoid sinking the ship.

    January 17, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tyokol

    It comes down to this: The captain thought cruises were getting boring so wanting "change" he took a page right out of Obama's playbook and now you can see the result in the picture...which is the same result Obama is getting with the country.

    January 17, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
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