Luxury liner drama - captain arrested

2012-01-14 23:09

Rome - Italian media say authorities have arrested the captain of the luxury cruise ship that ran aground only a few hundred meters off the Tuscan island of Giglio late on Friday.

This amid witness reports of the chaos on board the Costa Concordia after it ran aground, with many describing it as scenes from the Titanic. There were 4 200 passengers and crew on board.

The ANSA news agency quoted a local prosecutor as saying that Italian Captain Francesco Schettino was taken into custody on Saturday after several hours of questioning.

Three bodies were recovered from the sea and authorities say at least 40 people remain missing nearly 24 hours after the incident.

Emergency operations halted as night fell on Saturday, after divers spent the day scouring the half-submerged cruise liner and the coast guard searched the surrounding waters.

Passengers who made it safely to land recounted the chaotic and terrifying evacuation.

One American passenger said the ship was tilting so quickly that the lifeboats could not be deployed.

A fellow traveller said that is when they decided to jump and swim to shore.


Many passengers on the Costa Concordia were tucking into a late dinner when they heard a bang followed by tremors that knocked glasses and crockery off tables and sent them crashing to the floor.

A message came over a loudspeaker ordering passengers to converge on the cruise liner's deck from where lifeboats were being lowered into the cold Mediterranean waters.

Some tried to return to their cabins to grab some belongings, including warmer clothing against the winter's chill, but were told there was not time do so. At one stage the lights went off.

"We had to wait for an hour and a half before we could leave the ship," Silvana Caddeo, told the ANSA news agency, adding that she also saw two young men dive into the water.

"I don't know if they managed to rescue them," she added.

Officials said they were investigating what had caused the ship to apparently veer off course and hit a shoal around two hours after it had left the Italian port of Civitavecchia on the start of a Mediterranean cruise.

The ship's owner, the Genoa-based Costa Crociere, described the incident as "a tragedy", and said it intended to fully co-operate with authorities to determine what had gone wrong.

Some shipping sector experts and observers, such as Rafaele Aiello, a chief executive officer of the SNAV ferry company, were quick to brand the accident as a "very serious human error".

"The officer who was at the controls of the Costa Concordia, veered too close to the coast, not following the route traced by the captain, or the nautical maps," probably causing a collision with submerged rocks, Aiello was quoted as saying by ANSA.

"These ships are a technological miracle, but their radars can only see things on the surface of the water ... not [submerged] shoals and rocks," Aiello said.

'Temple of fun'

Built in 2006, the €450m luxury vessel - it was equipped with five restaurants, more than a dozen bars and several swimming pools and jacuzzis - is described as a "floating temple of fun" on a Costa brochure.

But for the passengers - mostly Italian, German and French but also nationals from Japan, Brazil and Australia - the trip soon turned into a lethal nightmare.

"It was like a scene from the Titanic," Mara Parmegiani, a journalist and passenger on the ship told the ANSA news agency. She was referring to the famous passenger liner that sunk almost 100 years ago, on April 15, 1912.

Caddeo who was on the cruise with her husband, praised the "excellent" efforts made by the crew help passengers, but said that the evacuation operation had been conducted with "zero" organisation.

Other passengers also criticised the evacuation process with, one, Yuri Selvaggi, telling ANSA that some of the crew had "panicked".

"They were all shouting and were clearly not trained," another passenger, told television news channel Sky TG24 after she had been brought ashore to Porto Santo Stefano on the Tuscan mainland.

Costa, in a statement, defended the conduct of the crew, saying that evacuation procedures were "immediately" activated.

It added, however, that these had been "extremely difficult" to carry out due to "the ship's progressive inclination".

Coastguard official Emilio Del Santos said that while many passengers had "lamented the slowness with which the rescue had been carried out ... one must now understand whether this was really the case or whether it was determined by the fear of the moment".

  • John - 2012-01-15 00:51

    E450 Million, that is roughly R4,5 Billion, and NO SONAR! Fleet of cruise ships will all shortly be equipped with Sonar, and as a bonus, will tell passengers where to fish when docked...

      Walter - 2012-01-15 06:22

      Sorry, Oceanos...... the Achilles Lauro sank in the northern Indian ocean.

      Hector - 2012-01-15 08:21

      No civilian ships have Sonar .. Echo Sounders yes .. Sonar no ...and fish finders are echo sounders..

  • matthew.healing - 2012-01-15 01:48

    "The officer who was at the controls of the Costa Concordia, veered too close to the coast, not following the route traced by the captain" Then why hell arrest the captain and not the officer ?

      Silvana - 2012-01-15 05:59

      @Walter. You've got your facts a bit mixed up. It was the Greek ship, Oceanos, whose crew abandoned the passengers.

      Silvana - 2012-01-15 06:25

      @Walter The Achille Lauro was hijacked.

      Walter - 2012-01-15 06:42

      Yes, you're quite right it was hijacked, but I'm sure it sank afterwards in the Indian Ocean. I apologise to all Italian ships' captains about my previous derogatory remark and thank Silvana for putting me in my place! The ship was the Oceanos and the captain was Greek, and NOT Italian.

      Walter - 2012-01-15 07:01

      AL did sink after catching fire off Somalia in 1994.

      Hector - 2012-01-15 08:23

      it is called "Vicarious Liability" The joys of earning Film Star wages... as Captain you take the blame..Nice job hey ?

      Ettienne - 2012-01-15 09:17

      The Captain is responsible to ensure that the correct route is followed. Obviously he did not do his job according to book.

  • Trevor - 2012-01-15 08:14

    Ok so this ship is beached at the harbour mouth, within swimming distance of the some say it was like the "Titanic"...OMG...wait til the investigation is done because everyone is jumpying the gun and obviously gearing up for lawsuits and talk shows....Titanic....that's an insult to it's survivors

  • Alva - 2012-01-15 08:38

    Reads like the Oceanos sinking.

  • Alva - 2012-01-15 08:51

    From what I understand,big ships set courses based on depth readings, satnav and near the coast, on lighthouse beacons and conspics. Rocks etc are very clearly marked on nav charts and pilot books. There should always be someone on the bridge. The ship's course is almost automatic. Maybe they had equipment failure? What a way to end a holiday!

  • Bob - 2012-01-15 09:37

    Frigging Italian crew again...ala Oceanos!

  • carmengourlie - 2012-01-15 09:59

    What I don't understand is why did they not close the water tight doors ? Every level on the ship has them and even if their was not power u could do it manually.. This is so tragic and I pray every1 is found..

  • david.lebethe - 2012-01-15 10:15

    I was contemplating going on a cruise but after what I read and survivors (by the way, our own Mara Louw also went through a simnilar fate few years back) account about the nightmare that they had to go through, then, am abadoning all my plans to undertake the trip. Imagine if it happened to such an expensive vessel with sophisticated equipment on board what more of our own Kruger (or something like that) vessels, which often take people on a cruise to Mozambique?

      Molton - 2012-01-15 10:50

      David, do not let this incident put you off cruising. I worked on cruise ships for many years and am planning to go cruising again this year. It is one of the safest holidays you can take. Much safer than going on holiday in a car on SA's roads. When you read about horrific car crashes in SA do you then decide never to get into a car again?

      Fran - 2012-01-15 15:10

      I agree with Molton. @ David I have also worked on Cruise ships, I promise you the crew are trained thoroughly in safety measures. We would do a crew drill EVERY week, and would get get tested on everything all the time. Please believe me even to this day, I always know exactly where all the exits are plus an alternative route and where all the fire fighting equipment is in every apartment, building or job I am in. Cruise staff are even upgraded on flights, so that they are available to help out in an emergency. Before a ship leaves port, they HAVE to do a passenger drill, which I am sure they would have done. The crew would have gone back to their respective jobs and would have found the second alarm a little off putting... also the fact that is happened so quickly and started to lilt very fast, it would have been really difficult to release the lifeboats. Although this is a tragedy and all my crew friends are devastated by it, it is very lucky that is happened so close to shore. Cruises are great fun and they take safety EXTREMELY seriously, but accidents can happen and it just boils down to being prepared and hopefully the right actions being taken by the crew.

  • Heinrich - 2012-01-15 11:53

    One would think that with modern GPS systems an alarm will be activated if a ship veers off the predetermined course.

  • ryan.demoser - 2012-01-15 12:12

    The Captain of a ship is ultimately responsible for the safety of the passengers and will get nailed if anything happens. I can also guarantee to all the nay-sayers that going on a cruise is much safer than climbing in your car and driving to work, taking a bus trip, flying anywhere on a plane etc. And we are getting on a 2 week cruise from Thursday the 19th January and we are not worried at all about this incident.

  • Piston - 2012-01-15 12:44

    I thought the Captain would have at least surrendered....

      Heinrich - 2012-01-16 22:21

      He did. First Bacchus attacked him then Morpheus subdued him.

  • toibry - 2012-01-15 22:37

    Why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain?

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