sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

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The Costa Concordia Disaster: How Human Error Made It Worse

By: Becky Little

Updated: August 10, 2023 | Original: June 23, 2021

Night view on January 16, 2012, of the cruise liner Costa Concordia aground in front of the harbor of Isola del Giglio after hitting underwater rocks on January 13.

Many famous naval disasters happen far out at sea, but on January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia wrecked just off the coast of an Italian island in relatively shallow water. The avoidable disaster killed 32 people and seriously injured many others, and left investigators wondering: Why was the luxury cruise ship sailing so close to the shore in the first place?

During the ensuing trial, prosecutors came up with a tabloid-ready explanation : The married ship captain had sailed it so close to the island to impress a much younger Moldovan dancer with whom he was having an affair.

Whether or not Captain Francesco Schettino was trying to impress his girlfriend is debatable. (Schettino insisted the ship sailed close to shore to salute other mariners and give passengers a good view.) But whatever the reason for getting too close, the Italian courts found the captain, four crew members and one official from the ship’s company, Costa Crociere (part of Carnival Corporation), to be at fault for causing the disaster and preventing a safe evacuation. The wreck was not the fault of unexpected weather or ship malfunction—it was a disaster caused entirely by a series of human errors.

“At any time when you have an incident similar to Concordia, there is never…a single causal factor,” says Brad Schoenwald, a senior marine inspector at the United States Coast Guard. “It is generally a sequence of events, things that line up in a bad way that ultimately create that incident.”

Wrecking Near the Shore

Technicians pass in a small boat near the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia lying aground in front of the Isola del Giglio on January 26, 2012 after hitting underwater rocks on January 13.

The Concordia was supposed to take passengers on a seven-day Italian cruise from Civitavecchia to Savona. But when it deviated from its planned path to sail closer to the island of Giglio, the ship struck a reef known as the Scole Rocks. The impact damaged the ship, allowing water to seep in and putting the 4,229 people on board in danger.

Sailing close to shore to give passengers a nice view or salute other sailors is known as a “sail-by,” and it’s unclear how often cruise ships perform these maneuvers. Some consider them to be dangerous deviations from planned routes. In its investigative report on the 2012 disaster, Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transports found that the Concordia “was sailing too close to the coastline, in a poorly lit shore area…at an unsafe distance at night time and at high speed (15.5 kts).”

In his trial, Captain Schettino blamed the shipwreck on Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin, who he claimed reacted incorrectly to his order; and argued that if the helmsman had reacted correctly and quickly, the ship wouldn’t have wrecked. However, an Italian naval admiral testified in court that even though the helmsman was late in executing the captain’s orders, “the crash would’ve happened anyway.” (The helmsman was one of the four crew members convicted in court for contributing to the disaster.)

A Questionable Evacuation

Former Captain of the Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino speaks with reporters after being aboard the ship with the team of experts inspecting the wreck on February 27, 2014 in Isola del Giglio, Italy. The Italian captain went back onboard the wreck for the first time since the sinking of the cruise ship on January 13, 2012, as part of his trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Evidence introduced in Schettino’s trial suggests that the safety of his passengers and crew wasn’t his number one priority as he assessed the damage to the Concordia. The impact and water leakage caused an electrical blackout on the ship, and a recorded phone call with Costa Crociere’s crisis coordinator, Roberto Ferrarini, shows he tried to downplay and cover up his actions by saying the blackout was what actually caused the accident.

“I have made a mess and practically the whole ship is flooding,” Schettino told Ferrarini while the ship was sinking. “What should I say to the media?… To the port authorities I have said that we had…a blackout.” (Ferrarini was later convicted for contributing to the disaster by delaying rescue operations.)

Schettino also didn’t immediately alert the Italian Search and Rescue Authority about the accident. The impact on the Scole Rocks occurred at about 9:45 p.m. local time, and the first person to contact rescue officials about the ship was someone on the shore, according to the investigative report. Search and Rescue contacted the ship a few minutes after 10:00 p.m., but Schettino didn’t tell them what had happened for about 20 more minutes.

A little more than an hour after impact, the crew began to evacuate the ship. But the report noted that some passengers testified that they didn’t hear the alarm to proceed to the lifeboats. Evacuation was made even more chaotic by the ship listing so far to starboard, making walking inside very difficult and lowering the lifeboats on one side, near to impossible. Making things worse, the crew had dropped the anchor incorrectly, causing the ship to flop over even more dramatically.

Through the confusion, the captain somehow made it into a lifeboat before everyone else had made it off. A coast guard member angrily told him on the phone to “Get back on board, damn it!” —a recorded sound bite that turned into a T-shirt slogan in Italy.

Schettino argued that he fell into a lifeboat because of how the ship was listing to one side, but this argument proved unconvincing. In 2015, a court found Schettino guilty of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship before passengers and crew were evacuated and lying to authorities about the disaster. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. In addition to Schettino, Ferrarini and Rusli Bin, the other people who received convictions for their role in the disaster were Cabin Service Director Manrico Giampedroni, First Officer Ciro Ambrosio and Third Officer Silvia Coronica.

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

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'We all suffer from PTSD': 10 years after the Costa Concordia cruise disaster, memories remain

GIGLIO, Italy — Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio. But for the passengers on board and the residents who welcomed them ashore, the memories of that harrowing, freezing night remain vividly etched into their minds.

The dinner plates that flew off the tables when the rocks first gashed the hull. The blackout after the ship's engine room flooded and its generators failed. The final mad scramble to evacuate the listing liner and then the extraordinary generosity of Giglio islanders who offered shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun rose and passengers were ferried to the mainland.

Italy on Thursday is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration that will end with a candlelit vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012. The events will honor the 32 people who died that night, the 4,200 survivors, but also the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with the Concordia's wrecked carcass off their shore for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.

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“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always refer to whether it was before or after the Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 and fishing on the jetty when the darkened Concordia listed toward shore and then collapsed onto its side in the water.

“I imagine it like a nail stuck to the wall that marks that date, as a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue effort that night, helping pull ashore the dazed, injured and freezing passengers from lifeboats.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month  warned people across-the-board not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.

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'We all suffer from PTSD'

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety still isn’t a top priority for the cruise ship industry. Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship close too shore in a stunt. He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower because the ship was listing too heavily.

“I always said this will not define me, but you have no choice," Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles, Calif. “We all suffer from PTSD. We had a lot of guilt that we survived and 32 other people died.”

Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.

Ananias and her family declined Costa’s initial $14,500 compensation offered to each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and therapy for the post-traumatic stress they have suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and then Italian court system, they lost their case.

“I think people need to be aware that when you go on a cruise, that if there is a problem, you will not have the justice that you may be used to in the country in which you are living,” said Ananias, who went onto become a top official in the International Cruise Victims association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety aboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

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'We did something incredible'

Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, stressed in a statement to The Associated Press that passenger and crew safety was the industry's top priority, and that cruising remains one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary," CLIA said. It said it has worked over the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “drive a safety culture that is based on continuous improvement."

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the capsized ship, the scramble to coordinate rescue services on shore, the recovery of the first bodies and then the pride that islanders rose to the occasion to tend to the survivors.

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Ortelli was later on hand when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 1,000-foot long cruise ship was righted vertical off its seabed graveyard in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains seared in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the response of the people was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. “But then we realized that on that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

Ten years on, Costa Concordia shipwreck still haunts survivors, islanders

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The cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen during the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour

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10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster is still vivid for survivors

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side after it ran aground off the coast of Italy in 2012.

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Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio . But for the passengers on board and the residents who welcomed them ashore, the memories of that harrowing, freezing night remain vividly etched into their minds.

The dinner plates that flew off the tables when the rocks first gashed the hull. The blackout after the ship’s engine room flooded and its generators failed. The final mad scramble to evacuate the listing liner and then the extraordinary generosity of Giglio islanders who offered shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun rose and passengers were ferried to the mainland.

Italy on Thursday is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration that will end with a candlelit vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012. The events will honor the 32 people who died that night, the 4,200 survivors, but also the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with the Concordia’s wrecked carcass off their shore for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.

“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always refer to whether it was before or after the Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 and fishing on the jetty when the darkened Concordia listed toward shore and then collapsed onto its side in the water.

“I imagine it like a nail stuck to the wall that marks that date, as a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue effort that night, helping pull ashore the dazed, injured and freezing passengers from lifeboats.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month warned people across-the-board not to go on cruises , regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.

A couple stands on a rear balcony of the Ruby Princess cruise ship while docked in San Francisco, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a cruise ship that docked in San Francisco on Thursday after a dozen vaccinated passengers tested positive for coronavirus. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A dozen passengers on cruise ship test positive for coronavirus

The passengers, whose infections were found through random testing, were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, according to the Port of San Francisco.

Jan. 7, 2022

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety still isn’t a top priority for the cruise ship industry. Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship close too shore in a stunt. He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower because the ship was listing too heavily.

“I always said this will not define me, but you have no choice,” Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles. “We all suffer from PTSD. We had a lot of guilt that we survived and 32 other people died.”

Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.

Ananias and her family declined Costa’s initial $14,500 compensation offered to each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and therapy for the post-traumatic stress they have suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and then Italian court system, they lost their case.

“I think people need to be aware that when you go on a cruise, that if there is a problem, you will not have the justice that you may be used to in the country in which you are living,” said Ananias, who went onto become a top official in the International Cruise Victims association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety aboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

Cruise Lines International Assn., the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, stressed in a statement to the Associated Press that passenger and crew safety were the industry’s top priority, and that cruising remains one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” CLIA said. It said it has worked over the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “drive a safety culture that is based on continuous improvement.”

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the capsized ship, the scramble to coordinate rescue services on shore, the recovery of the first bodies and then the pride that islanders rose to the occasion to tend to the survivors.

Ortelli was later on hand when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 1,000-foot long cruise ship was righted vertical off its seabed graveyard in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains seared in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the response of the people was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. “But then we realized that on that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

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Costa Concordia Victims' Last Moments Revealed

The story of a passenger who drowned after giving up his seat in a lifeboat features in a report released by prosecutors.

By Nick Pisa, Sky Reporter

Tuesday 5 March 2013 12:46, UK

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The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is pictured outside Giglio harbour

Details of the final moments of the 32 people who died in the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy have emerged in a prosecution report.

The 60-page document makes up the official request to have captain Francesco Schettino - who was in charge at the time - sent for trial.

He is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a disaster, failing to inform authorities of what had happened and abandoning ship while dozens of passengers were still onboard.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew were onboard the doomed Costa Concordia when it struck rocks after Schettino allegedly changed course in order to carry out a sail-by salute of a Mediterranean island to impress holidaymakers.

Costa Concordia crash victims

The 70-metre gash allowed water to pour in and the ship eventually capsized and came to rest on its side at a location known as Seagull Point, just outside the harbour on the island of Giglio in January last year, hours into a seven-day cruise.

The chaotic scenes of panic and disorganisation that gripped the ship as it started to sink are evident throughout the report.

In one part, Francecso Verusio relives the moment when the youngest victim of the disaster, five-year-old Dayana Arlotti, and her father, William, drowned.

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Mr Verusio wrote that they died ''because they were unable to find any space in a lifeboat on deck four, on the left-hand side, and they were then directed to the right-hand side by crew members on the same deck but as they were crossing the inside corridor ... they fell into a hole that had been created when the ship rolled onto its right side.

"They dropped into an area that was already flooded and they died from drowning," he added.

Other stories include that of bartender Erika Fani Soria Molinala, who fell from a lifeboat as it pulled away from the Concordia but as she was not wearing a lifejacket she was dragged underwater from the current created as the Concordia tilted on its side.

It also emerged that holidaymaker Maria D'Introno - whose body has yet to be recovered - was told to get out of a lifeboat because it was too full and the tilt of the ship made it impossible to launch safely.

She was later seen terrified by the edge of the ship, jumping into the water without a lifejacket despite not being able to swim.

The last moments of musician Giuseppe Girolamo are described in another section of the report.

It emerged he had been directed to the right-hand side of the boat to get into a lifeboat and had actually got into one when he decided to give up his place - only to later drown.

The prosecution report also details how Schettino was distracted by the ''inopportune presence of unauthorised persons'' on the bridge of the Concordia, including several crew members and passenger hostess Domnica Cemortan - who was seen enjoying dinner with the captain minutes before the ship struck the rocks.

It also details how Schettino was distracted as he was speaking on the telephone while he was ''in close proximity to the coast in a dangerous situation and with the helm under manual control".

It goes on to list 157 passengers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress following the disaster.

Schettino, 52, has insisted he is innocent of all charges and that the rocks were not marked on his charts. He says he should be thanked as his actions in steering the ship back towards the port at Giglio saved hundreds of lives.

However, he was ridiculed by the world's media after it emerged he had told coastguards he "tripped and fell" into a lifeboat as the Concordia began to list to one side, while recordings later emerged of him refusing orders to get back onboard and co-ordinate the rescue efforts.

Some other crew members also face charges, as do management figures from the company Costa Cruises, which owns the ship that is still lying on its side and not expected to be removed until September at the earliest.

The initial part of the trial is expected to last a week and once again will take place in a theatre in the town of Grosseto.

Prosecutors have also requested the indictment of five other crew members, including two officers Ciro Ambrosio and Silvio Coronica and the Concordia's helmsman Jacob Rusli.

In an unusual move, Mr Verusio has posted details of the case on a Facebook site in various languages and invited those who may have a claim to contact him.

It has also emerged that Costa Cruises asked for a plea-bargaining agreement, which would see them pay a fine of one million euros. They insist Schettino is solely to blame.

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10 years later, Costa Concordia survivors share their stories from doomed cruise ship

Ten years after the deadly Costa Concordia cruise line disaster in Italy, survivors still vividly remember scenes of chaos they say were like something straight out of the movie "Titanic."

NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella caught up with a group of survivors on TODAY Wednesday, a decade after they escaped a maritime disaster that claimed the lives of 32 people. The Italian cruise ship ran aground off the tiny Italian island of Giglio after striking an underground rock and capsizing.

"I think it’s the panic, the feeling of panic, is what’s carried through over 10 years," Ian Donoff, who was on the cruise with his wife Janice for their honeymoon, told Cobiella. "And it’s just as strong now."

More than 4,000 passengers and crew were on board when the ship crashed into rocks in the dark in the Mediterranean Sea, sending seawater rushing into the vessel as people scrambled for their lives.

The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, had been performing a sail-past salute of Giglio when he steered the ship too close to the island and hit the jagged reef, opening a 230-foot gash in the side of the cruise liner.

Passengers struggled to escape in the darkness, clambering to get to the life boats. Alaska resident Nate Lukes was with his wife, Cary, and their four daughters aboard the ship and remembers the chaos that ensued as the ship started to sink.

"There was really a melee there is the best way to describe it," he told Cobiella. "It's very similar to the movie 'Titanic.' People were jumping onto the top of the lifeboats and pushing down women and children to try to get to them."

The lifeboats wouldn't drop down because the ship was tilted on its side, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded on the side of the ship for hours in the cold. People were left to clamber down a rope ladder over a distance equivalent to 11 stories.

"Everybody was rushing for the lifeboats," Nate Lukes said. "I felt like (my daughters) were going to get trampled, and putting my arms around them and just holding them together and letting the sea of people go by us."

Schettino was convicted of multiple manslaughter as well as abandoning ship after leaving before all the passengers had reached safety. He is now serving a 16-year prison sentence .

It took nearly two years for the damaged ship to be raised from its side before it was towed away to be scrapped.

The calamity caused changes in the cruise industry like carrying more lifejackets and holding emergency drills before leaving port.

A decade after that harrowing night, the survivors are grateful to have made it out alive. None of the survivors who spoke with Cobiella have been on a cruise since that day.

"I said that if we survive this, then our marriage will have to survive forever," Ian Donoff said.

Scott Stump is a trending reporter and the writer of the daily newsletter This is TODAY (which you should subscribe to here! ) that brings the day's news, health tips, parenting stories, recipes and a daily delight right to your inbox. He has been a regular contributor for TODAY.com since 2011, producing features and news for pop culture, parents, politics, health, style, food and pretty much everything else. 

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How the Wreck of a Cruise Liner Changed an Italian Island

Ten years ago the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, killing 32 people and entwining the lives of others forever.

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

By Gaia Pianigiani

GIGLIO PORTO, Italy — The curvy granite rocks of the Tuscan island of Giglio lay bare in the winter sun, no longer hidden by the ominous, stricken cruise liner that ran aground in the turquoise waters of this marine sanctuary ten years ago.

Few of the 500-odd residents of the fishermen’s village will ever forget the freezing night of Jan. 13, 2012, when the Costa Concordia shipwrecked, killing 32 people and upending life on the island for years.

“Every one of us here has a tragic memory from then,” said Mario Pellegrini, 59, who was deputy mayor in 2012 and was the first civilian to climb onto the cruise ship after it struck the rocks near the lighthouses at the port entrance.

The hospitality of the tight-knit community of islanders kicked in, at first to give basic assistance to the 4,229 passengers and crew members who had to be evacuated from a listing vessel as high as a skyscraper. In no time, Giglio residents hosted thousands of journalists, law enforcement officers and rescue experts who descended on the port. In the months to come, salvage teams set up camp in the picturesque harbor to work on safely removing the ship, an operation that took more than two years to complete.

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

The people of Giglio felt like a family for those who spent long days at its port, waiting to receive word of their loved ones whose bodies remained trapped on the ship. On Thursday, 10 years to the day of the tragedy, the victims’ families, some passengers and Italian authorities attended a remembrance Mass and threw a crown of flowers onto the waters where the Costa Concordia had rested. At 9:45 p.m., the time when the ship ran aground, a candlelit procession illuminated the port’s quay while church bells rang and ship sirens blared.

What stands out now for many is how the wreck forever changed the lives of some of those whose paths crossed as a result. Friendships were made, business relations took shape and new families were even formed.

“It feels as if, since that tragic night, the lives of all the people involved were forever connected by an invisible thread,” Luana Gervasi, the niece of one of the shipwreck victims, said at the Mass on Thursday, her voice breaking.

Francesco Dietrich, 48, from the eastern city of Ancona, arrived on the island in February 2013 to work with the wreck divers, “a dream job,” he said, adding: “It was like offering someone who plays soccer for the parish team to join the Champions League with all the top teams in the business.”

For his work, Mr. Dietrich had to buy a lot of boat-repair supplies from the only hardware store in town. It was owned by a local family, and Mr. Dietrich now has a 6-year-old son, Pietro, with the family’s daughter.

“It was such a shock for us,” said Bruna Danei, 42, who until 2018 worked as a secretary for the consortium that salvaged the wreck. “The work on the Costa Concordia was a life-changing experience for me in many ways.”

A rendering of the Costa Concordia used by salvage teams to plan its recovery hung on the wall of the living room where her 22-month-old daughter, Arianna, played.

“She wouldn’t be here if Davide hadn’t come to work on the site,” Ms. Danei said, referring to Davide Cedioli, 52, an experienced diver from Turin who came to the island in May 2012 to help right the Costa Concordia — and who is also Arianna’s father.

From a barge, Mr. Cedioli monitored the unprecedented salvage operation that, in less than a day, was able to rotate the 951-foot vessel, partly smashed against the rocks, from the sea bottom to an upright position without further endangering the underwater ecosystem that it damaged when it ran aground.

“We jumped up and down in happiness when the parbuckling was completed,” Mr. Cedioli remembered. “We felt we were bringing some justice to this story. And I loved this small community and living on the island.”

The local council voted to make Jan. 13 a day of remembrance on Giglio, but after this year it will stop the public commemorations and “make it a more intimate moment, without the media,” Mr. Ortelli said during the mass.

“Being here ten years later brings back a lot of emotions,” said Kevin Rebello, 47, whose older brother, Russell, was a waiter on the Costa Concordia.

Russell Rebello’s remains were finally retrieved three years after the shipwreck, from under the furniture in a cabin, once the vessel was upright and being taken apart in Genoa.

“First, I feel close to my brother here,” Kevin Rebello said. “But it is also some sort of family reunion for me — I couldn’t wait to see the Giglio people.”

Mr. Rebello hugged and greeted residents on the streets of the port area, and recalled how the people there had shown affection for him at the time, buying him coffee and simply showing respect for his grief.

“Other victims’ families feel differently, but I am a Catholic and I have forgiven,” Mr. Rebello explained.

The Costa Concordia accident caused national shame when it became clear that the liner’s commander, Francesco Schettino, failed to immediately sound the general alarm and coordinate the evacuation, and instead abandoned the sinking vessel.

“Get back on board!” a Coast Guard officer shouted at Mr. Schettino when he understood that the captain was in a lifeboat watching people scramble to escape, audio recordings of their exchange later revealed. “Go up on the bow of the ship on a rope ladder, and tell me what you can do, how many people are there and what they need. Now!”

The officer has since pursued a successful career in politics, while Mr. Schettino is serving a 16-year sentence in a Roman prison for homicide and for abandoning the ship before the evacuation was completed. Other officials and crew members plea-bargained for lesser sentences.

During the trial, Mr. Schettino admitted that he had committed an “imprudence” when he decided to sail near the island of Giglio at high speed to greet the family of the ship’s headwaiter. The impact with the half-submerged rock near the island produced a gash in the hull more than 70 meters long, or about 76 yards, leading to blackouts on board and water pouring into the lower decks.

Mr. Schettino tried to steer the cruise ship toward the port to make evacuation easier, but the vessel was out of control and began to tip as it neared the harbor, making many lifeboats useless.

“I can’t forget the eyes of children, scared to death, and of their parents,” said Mr. Pellegrini, who had boarded the ship to speak with officials and organize the evacuation. “The metallic sound of the enormous ship tipping over and the gurgling of the sea up the endless corridors of the cruiser.”

Sergio Ortelli, who is still the mayor of Giglio ten years later, was similarly moved. “Nobody can go back and cancel those senseless deaths of innocent people, or the grief of their families,” he said. “The tragedy will always stay with us as a community. It was an apocalypse for us.”

Yet Mr. Ortelli said that the accident also told a different story, that of the skilled rescuers who managed to save thousands of lives, and of the engineers who righted the liner, refloated it and took it to the scrapyard.

While the global attention shifted away from Giglio, residents have stayed in touch with the outside world through the people who temporarily lived there.

For months, the Rev. Lorenzo Pasquotti, who was then a pastor in Giglio, kept receiving packages: dry-cleaned slippers, sweaters and tablecloths that were given to the cold, stranded passengers in his church that night, returned via courier.

One summer, Father Pasquotti ate German cookies with a German couple who were passengers on the ship. They still remembered the hot tea and leftovers from Christmas delicacies that they were given that night.

“So many nationalities — the world was at our door all of a sudden,” he said, remembering that night. “And we naturally opened it.”

Gaia Pianigiani is a reporter based in Italy for The New York Times.  More about Gaia Pianigiani

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  • What Is Cinema?

Another Night to Remember

By Bryan Burrough and Josephine McKenna

This image may contain Vehicle Transportation Boat Cruise Ship and Ship

At the Italian port of Civitavecchia, 40 miles northwest of Rome, the great cruise ships line the long concrete breakwater like taxis at a curb. That Friday afternoon, January 13, 2012, the largest and grandest was the Costa Concordia, 17 decks high, a floating pleasure palace the length of three football fields. It was a cool, bright day as the crowds filed on and off the ship, those who had boarded at Barcelona and Marseilles heading into Rome for sightseeing while hundreds of new passengers pulled rolling bags toward the *Concordia’*s arrival terminal.

Up on the road, a writer from Rome named Patrizia Perilli stepped from a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and marveled at the ship’s immensity. “You could see it even before you entered the port; it was a floating monster,” she recalls. “Its size made me feel secure. It was sunny, and its windows were just sparkling.”

Inside the terminal, newcomers handed their luggage to the Indian and Filipino pursers. There was a welcome desk for an Italian reality show, Professione LookMaker, filming on board that week; among those arriving were 200 or so hairdressers from Naples and Bologna and Milan, all hoping to make it onto the show. As they chattered, flashed their passports, and boarded, then slowly filtered throughout the ship, they thought it all grand: 1,500 luxury cabins, six restaurants, 13 bars, the two-story Samsara Spa and fitness center, the three-story Atene Theatre, four swimming pools, the Barcellona Casino, the Lisbona Disco, even an Internet café, all wrapped around a dramatic, nine-story central atrium, itself a riot of pink, blue, and green lights.

Some of the hundred or so Americans on board weren’t so wowed. One likened wandering the Concordia to getting lost inside a pinball machine. “It kind of reminded me of old Vegas, you know?” says Benji Smith, a 34-year-old Massachusetts honeymooner, who had boarded at Barcelona with his wife, along with two of her relatives and two of their friends, all from Hong Kong. “Everything was really gaudy, lots of fancy blown glass in different colors. The entertainment kind of reinforced the old-Vegas thing, aging singers performing solo on a keyboard with a drum track.”

There were just over 4,200 people aboard the Concordia as it eased away from the breakwater that evening, about a thousand crew members and 3,200 passengers, including nearly a thousand Italians, hundreds of French, British, Russians, and Germans, even a few dozen from Argentina and Peru. Up on Deck 10, Patrizia Perilli stepped onto her balcony and daydreamed about sunbathing. As she began to unpack in her elegant stateroom, she glanced over at her boyfriend, who was watching a video on what to do if they needed to abandon ship. Perilli teased him, “What would we ever need that for?”

As the world now knows, they needed it desperately. Six hours later the Concordia would be lying on its side in the sea, freezing water surging up the same carpeted hallways that hairdressers and newlyweds were already using to head to dinner. Of the 4,200 people on board, 32 would be dead by dawn.

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is many things to many people. To Italians, who dominated the ship’s officer ranks and made up a third of its passengers, it is a national embarrassment; once the pinnacle of Mediterranean hedonism, the Concordia was now sprawled dead on the rocks in a cold winter sea.

But the *Concordia’*s loss is also a landmark moment in naval history. It is the largest passenger ship ever wrecked. The 4,000 people who fled its slippery decks—nearly twice as many as were aboard the R.M.S. Titanic in 1912—represent the largest maritime evacuation in history. A story of heroism and disgrace, it is also, in the mistakes of its captain and certain officers, a tale of monumental human folly.

“This was an episode of historic importance for those who study nautical issues,” says Ilarione Dell’Anna, the Italian Coast Guard admiral who oversaw much of the massive rescue effort that night. “The old point of departure was the Titanic. I believe that today the new point of departure will be the Costa Concordia. There has never been anything like this before. We must study this, to see what happened and to see what we can learn.”

Much of what happened on the night of January 13 can now be told, based on the accounts of dozens of passengers, crew members, and rescue workers. But the one group whose actions are crucial to any understanding of what went wrong—the ship’s officers—has been largely mute, silenced first by superiors at Costa Cruises and now by a web of official investigations. The officers have spoken mainly to the authorities, but this being the Italian justice system, their stories quickly leaked to the newspapers—and not simply, as happens in America, via the utterances of anonymous government officials. In Rome entire transcripts of these interrogations and depositions have been leaked, affording a fairly detailed, if still incomplete, portrait of what the captain and senior officers say actually happened.

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Captain, My Captain

The Concordia first sailed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, from a Genoese shipyard, in 2005; at the time it was Italy’s largest cruise ship. When it was christened, the champagne bottle had failed to break, an ominous portent to superstitious mariners. Still, the ship proved a success for its Italian owner, Costa Cruises, a unit of the Miami-based Carnival Corporation. The ship sailed only in the Mediterranean, typically taking a circular route from Civitavecchia to Savona, Marseilles, Barcelona, Majorca, Sardinia, and Sicily.

In command on the bridge that night was 51-year-old Captain Francesco Schettino, today a figure of international contempt. Dashing and deeply tanned, with lustrous black hair, Schettino had joined Costa as a safety officer in 2002, been promoted to captain in 2006, and since September had been on his second tour aboard the Concordia. Among the officers, he was respected, though the retired captain who had mentored him later told prosecutors he was a bit too “exuberant” for his own good. Despite being married, Schettino had a lady friend at his side that evening, a comely 25-year-old off-duty hostess named Domnica Cemortan, from Moldova. Though she would later become an object of intense fascination in the press, Cemortan’s role in events that night was inconsequential.

Before leaving port, Captain Schettino set a course for Savona, on the Italian Riviera, 250 miles to the northwest. As the ship steamed into the Tyrrhenian, Schettino headed to dinner with Cemortan, telling an officer to alert him when the Concordia closed within five miles of the island of Giglio, 45 miles northwest. Later, a passenger would claim he saw Schettino and his friend polish off a decanter of red wine while eating, but the story was never confirmed. Around nine Schettino rose and, with Cemortan in tow, returned to the bridge.

Ahead lay mountainous Giglio, a collection of sleepy villages and vacation homes clustered around a tiny stone harbor, nine miles off the coast of Tuscany.

The *Concordia’*s normal course took it through the middle of the channel between Giglio and the mainland, but as Schettino arrived, it was already veering toward the island. The ship’s chief maître d’, Antonello Tievoli, was a native of Giglio and had asked the captain to perform a “salute,” essentially a slow drive-by, a common cruise-industry practice intended to show off the ship and impress local residents. Schettino had consented, in part because his mentor, Mario Palombo, lived there, too. Palombo had performed several salutes to Giglio, Schettino at least one.

As the ship made its approach, Tievoli, standing on the bridge, placed a telephone call to Palombo. The retired captain, it turned out, wasn’t on Giglio; he was at a second home, on the mainland. After some chitchat, Tievoli handed the telephone to the captain, which, Palombo told prosecutors, caught him off guard. He and Schettino hadn’t talked in at least seven years; Schettino hadn’t bothered to call when Palombo retired. “The call surprised me,” Palombo said. “I was even more surprised when Schettino asked me about the depth of the seabed in front of Giglio Island, the harbor area, specifying that he wanted to pass at a distance of 0.4 nautical miles [around 800 yards]. I answered that in that area the seabeds are good, but considering the winter season”—when few people were on the island—“there was no reason to go at close range, so I invited him to make a quick greeting and to honk the horn and remain far from shore. I want to clarify that I said, verbatim, ‘Say hi and stay away.’ ”

Just then the phone went dead. It may have been the very moment Schettino saw the rock.

Not until the ship had closed within two miles of the island, Schettino’s officers told prosecutors, did the captain take personal control of the ship. As Schettino recalled it, he stood at a radar station, in front of the broad outer windows, affording him a clear view of Giglio’s lights. An Indonesian crewman, Rusli Bin Jacob, remained at the helm, taking orders from the captain. The maneuver Schettino planned was simple, one he had overseen many, many times, just an easy turn to starboard, to the right, that would take the Concordia parallel to the coastline, dazzling the island’s residents with the length of the fully lit ship as it slid past. In doing so, however, Schettino made five crucial mistakes, the last two fatal. For one thing, the Concordia was going too fast, 15 knots, a high speed for maneuvering so close to shore. And while he had consulted radar and maps, Schettino seems to have been navigating largely by his own eyesight—“a major mistake,” in one analyst’s words. His third error was the bane of every American motorist: Schettino was talking on the phone while driving.

Schettino’s fourth mistake, however, appears to have been an amazingly stupid bit of confusion. He began his turn by calculating the distance from a set of rocks that lay about 900 yards off the harbor. What he failed to notice was another rock, nearer the ship. Giving orders to Bin Jacob, Schettino eased the Concordia into the turn without event. Then, coming onto a new, northerly course just over a half-mile from the harbor, he saw the rock below, to his left. It was enormous, just at the surface, crowned with frothing white water; he was so close to Giglio he could see it by the town’s lights.

He couldn’t believe it.

“Hard to starboard!” Schettino yelled.

It was an instinctive order, intended to steer the ship away from the rock. For a fleeting moment Schettino thought it had worked. The *Concordia’*s bow cleared the rock. Its midsection cleared as well. But by turning the ship to starboard the stern swung toward the island, striking the submerged part of the rock. “The problem was that I went to starboard trying to avoid it, and that was the mistake, because I should not have gone starboard,” Schettino told prosecutors. “I made an imprudent decision. Nothing would have happened if I had not set the helm to starboard.”

“Hard to port!” Schettino commanded, correcting his mistake.

A moment later, he shouted, “Hard to starboard!”

And then the lights went out.

It was 9:42. Many of the passengers were at dinner, hundreds of them in the vast Milano Restaurant alone. A Schenectady, New York, couple, Brian Aho and Joan Fleser, along with their 18-year-old daughter, Alana, had just been served eggplant-and-feta appetizers when Aho felt the ship shudder.

“Joan and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, ‘That’s not normal,’ ” recalls Aho. “Then there was a bang bang bang bang . Then there was just a great big groaning sound.”

“I immediately felt the ship list severely to port,” Fleser says. “Dishes went flying. Waiters went flying all over. Glasses were flying. Exactly like the scene in Titanic. ”

“I took the first bite of my eggplant and feta,” Aho says, “and I literally had to chase the plate across the table.”

“Suddenly there was a loud bang,” recalls Patrizia Perilli. “It was clear there had been a crash. Immediately after that there was a very long and powerful vibration—it seemed like an earthquake.”

A Bologna hairdresser, Donatella Landini, was sitting nearby, marveling at the coastline, when she felt the jolt. “The sensation was like a wave,” she recalls. “Then there was this really loud sound like a ta-ta-ta as the rocks penetrated the ship.” Gianmaria Michelino, a hairdresser from Naples, says, “The tables, plates, and glasses began to fall and people began to run. Many people fell. Women who had been running in high heels fell.”

All around, diners surged toward the restaurant’s main entrance. Aho and Fleser took their daughter and headed for a side exit, where the only crew member they saw, a sequined dancer, was gesticulating madly and shouting in Italian. “Just as we were leaving, the lights went out,” Fleser says, “and people started screaming, really panicking. The lights were out only for a few moments; then the emergency lights came on. We knew the lifeboats were on Deck 4. We didn’t even go back to our room. We just went for the boats.”

“We stayed at our table,” recalls Perilli. “The restaurant emptied and there was a surreal silence in the room. Everyone was gone.”

Somewhere on the ship, an Italian woman named Concetta Robi took out her cell phone and dialed her daughter in the central Italian town of Prato, near Florence. She described scenes of chaos, ceiling panels falling, waiters stumbling, passengers scrambling to put on life jackets. The daughter telephoned the police, the carabinieri.

As passengers tried in vain to understand what was happening, Captain Schettino stood on the bridge, stunned. An officer nearby later told investigators he heard the captain say, “Fuck. I didn’t see it!”

In those first confusing minutes, Schettino spoke several times with engineers belowdecks and sent at least one officer to assess the damage. Moments after the Concordia struck the rock, the chief engineer, Giuseppe Pilon, had hustled toward his control room. An officer emerged from the engine room itself shouting, “There’s water! There’s water!” “I told him to check that all the watertight doors were closed as they should be,” Pilon told prosecutors. “Just as I finished speaking we had a total blackout I opened the door to the engine room and the water had already risen to the main switchboard I informed Captain Schettino of the situation. I told him that the engine room, the main switchboard, and the stern section were flooded. I told him we had lost control of the ship.”

There was a 230-foot-long horizontal gash below the waterline. Seawater was exploding into the engine room and was fast cascading through areas holding all the ship’s engines and generators. The lower decks are divided into giant compartments; if four flood, the ship will sink.

At 9:57, 15 minutes after the ship struck the rock, Schettino phoned Costa Cruises’ operations center. The executive he spoke to, Roberto Ferrarini, later told reporters, “Schettino told me there was one compartment flooded, the compartment with electrical propulsion motors, and with that kind of situation the ship’s buoyancy was not compromised. His voice was quite clear and calm.” Between 10:06 and 10:26, the two men spoke three more times. At one point, Schettino admitted that a second compartment had flooded. That was, to put it mildly, an understatement. In fact, five compartments were flooding; the situation was hopeless. (Later, Schettino would deny that he had attempted to mislead either his superiors or anyone else.)

They were sinking. How much time they had, no one knew. Schettino had few options. The engines were dead. Computer screens had gone black. The ship was drifting and losing speed. Its momentum had carried it north along the island’s coastline, past the harbor, then past a rocky peninsula called Point Gabbianara. By 10 P.M., 20 minutes after striking the rock, the ship was heading away from the island, into open water. If something wasn’t done immediately, it would sink there.

What happened next won’t be fully understood until the *Concordia’*s black-box recorders are analyzed. But from what little Schettino and Costa officials have said, it appears that Schettino realized he had to ground the ship; evacuating a beached ship would be far safer than evacuating at sea. The nearest land, however, was already behind the ship, at Point Gabbianara. Somehow Schettino had to turn the powerless Concordia completely around and ram it into the rocks lining the peninsula. How this happened is not clear. From the ship’s course, some analysts initially speculated that Schettino used an emergency generator to gain control of the ship’s bow thrusters—tiny jets of water used in docking—which allowed him to make the turn. Others maintain that he did nothing, that the turnabout was a moment of incredible luck. They argue that the prevailing wind and current—both pushing the Concordia back toward the island—did most of the work.

“The bow thrusters wouldn’t have been usable, but from what we know, it seems like he could still steer,” says John Konrad, a veteran American captain and nautical analyst. “It looks like he was able to steer into the hairpin turn, and wind and current did the rest.”

However it was done, the Concordia completed a hairpin turn to starboard, turning the ship completely around. At that point, it began drifting straight toward the rocks.

I larione Dell’Anna, the dapper admiral in charge of Coast Guard rescue operations in Livorno, meets me on a freezing evening outside a columned seaside mansion in the coastal city of La Spezia. Inside, waiters in white waistcoats are busy laying out long tables lined with antipasti and flutes of champagne for a naval officers’ reception. Dell’Anna, wearing a blue dress uniform with a star on each lapel, takes a seat on a corner sofa.

“I’ll tell you how it all started: It was a dark and stormy night,” he begins, then smiles. “No, seriously, it was a quiet night. I was in Rome. We got a call from a town outside Florence. The party, a carabinieri officer, had a call from a woman whose mother was on a ship, we don’t know where, who was putting on life jackets. Very unusual, needless to say, for us to get such a call from land. Ordinarily a ship calls us. In this case, we had to find the ship. We were the ones who triggered the entire operation.”

That first call, like hundreds of others in the coming hours, arrived at the Coast Guard’s rescue-coordination center, a cluster of red-brick buildings on the harbor in Livorno, about 90 miles north of Giglio. Three officers were on duty that night inside its small operations room, a 12-by-25-foot white box lined with computer screens. “At 2206, I received the call,” remembers one of the night’s unsung heroes, an energetic 37-year-old petty officer named Alessandro Tosi. The carabinieri “thought it was a ship going from Savona to Barcelona. I called Savona. They said no, no ship had left from there. I asked the carabinieri for more information. They called the passenger’s daughter, and she said it was the Costa Concordia. ”

Six minutes after that first call, at 10:12, Tosi located the Concordia on a radar screen just off Giglio. “So then we called the ship by radio, to ask if there was a problem,” Tosi recalls. An officer on the bridge answered. “He said it was just an electrical blackout,” Tosi continues. “I said, ‘But I’ve heard plates are falling off the dinner tables—why would that be? Why have passengers been ordered to put on life jackets?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s just a blackout.’ He said they would resolve it shortly.”

The Concordia crewman speaking with the Coast Guard was the ship’s navigation officer, a 26-year-old Italian named Simone Canessa. “The Captain ordered … Canessa to say that there was a blackout on board,” third mate Silvia Coronica later told prosecutors. “When asked if we needed assistance, he said, ‘At the moment, no.’ ” The first mate, Ciro Ambrosio, who was also on the bridge, confirmed to investigators that Schettino was fully aware that a blackout was the least of their problems. “The captain ordered us to say that everything was under control and that we were checking the damage, even though he knew that the ship was taking on water.”

Tosi put the radio down, suspicious. This wouldn’t be the first captain who downplayed his plight in hopes of avoiding public humiliation. Tosi telephoned his two superiors, both of whom arrived within a half-hour.

At 10:16, the captain of a Guardia di Finanza cutter—the equivalent of U.S. Customs—radioed Tosi to say he was off Giglio and offered to investigate. Tosi gave the go-ahead. “I got back to the [ Concordia ] and said, ‘Please keep us abreast of what is going on,’ ” says Tosi. “After about 10 minutes, they didn’t update us. Nothing. So we called them again, asking, ‘Can you please update us?’ At that point, they said they had water coming in. We asked what sort of help they needed, and how many people on board had been injured. They said there were no injured. They requested only one tugboat.” Tosi shakes his head. “One tugboat.”

Schettino’s apparent refusal to promptly admit the *Concordia’*s plight—to lie about it, according to the Coast Guard—not only was a violation of Italian maritime law but cost precious time, delaying the arrival of rescue workers by as much as 45 minutes. At 10:28 the Coast Guard center ordered every available ship in the area to head for the island of Giglio.

With the Concordia beginning to list, most of the 3,200 passengers had no clue what to do. A briefing on how to evacuate the ship wasn’t to take place until late the next day. Many, like the Aho family, streamed toward the lifeboats, which lined both sides of Deck 4, and opened lockers carrying orange life jackets. Already, some were panicking. “The life jacket I had, a woman was trying to rip it out of my arms. It actually ripped the thing—you could hear it,” Joan Fleser says. “We stayed right there by one of the lifeboats, No. 19. The whole time we were standing there I only saw one crew member walk by. I asked what was happening. He said he didn’t know. We heard two announcements, both the same, that it was an electrical problem with a generator, technicians were working on it, and everything was under control.”

Internet videos later showed crewmen exhorting passengers to return to their staterooms, which, while jarring in light of subsequent events, made sense at the time: There had been no order to abandon ship. When Addie King, a New Jersey graduate student, emerged from her room wearing a life jacket, a maintenance worker actually told her to put it away. Like most, she ignored the advice and headed to the starboard side of Deck 4, where hundreds of passengers were already lining the rails, waiting and worrying. The Massachusetts newlyweds, Benji Smith and Emily Lau, were among them. “Some people are already crying and screaming,” Smith recalls. “But most people were still pretty well collected. You could see some laughing.”

For the moment, the crowd remained calm.

The island of Giglio, for centuries a haven for vacationing Romans, has a long history of unexpected visitors. Once, they were buccaneers: in the 16th century, the legendary pirate Barbarossa carted off every person on the island to slavery. Today, Giglio’s harbor, ringed by a semicircular stone esplanade lined with cafés and snack shops, is home to a few dozen fishing boats and sailboats. In summer, when the tourists come, the population soars to 15,000. In winter barely 700 remain.

That night, on the far side of the island, a 49-year-old hotel manager, Mario Pellegrini, was pointing a remote control at his television, trying in vain to find something to watch. A handsome man with a mop of curly brown hair and sprays of wrinkles at his eyes, Pellegrini was exhausted. The day before, he and a pal had gone fishing, and when the motor on their boat died, they ended up spending the night at sea. “The sea is not for me,” he sighed to his friend afterward. “You can sell that damn boat.”

The phone rang. It was a policeman at the port. A big ship, he said, was in trouble, just outside the harbor. Pellegrini, the island’s deputy mayor, had no idea how serious the matter was, but the policeman sounded worried. He hopped in his car and began driving across the mountain toward the port, dialing others on Giglio’s island council as he went. He reached a tobacco-shop owner, Giovanni Rossi, who was at his home above the harbor watching his favorite movie, Ben-Hur. “There’s a ship in trouble out there,” Pellegrini told him. “You should get down there.”

“What do you mean, there’s a ship out there?” Rossi said, stepping to his window. Parting the curtains, he gasped. Then he threw on a coat and raced down the hill toward the port. A few moments later, Pellegrini rounded the mountainside. Far below, just a few hundred yards off Point Gabbianara, was the largest ship he had ever seen, every light ablaze, drifting straight toward the rocks alongside the peninsula.

“Oh my God,” Pellegrini breathed.

After completing its desperate hairpin turn away from the open sea, the Concordia struck ground a second time that night between 10:40 and 10:50, running onto the rocky underwater escarpment beside Point Gabbianara, facing the mouth of Giglio’s little harbor, a quarter-mile away. Its landing, such as it was, was fairly smooth; few passengers even remember a jolt. Later, Schettino would claim that this maneuver saved hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives.

In fact, according to John Konrad’s analysis, it was here that Schettino made the error that actually led to many of the deaths that night. The ship was already listing to starboard, toward the peninsula. In an attempt to prevent it from falling further—it eventually and famously flopped onto its right side—Schettino dropped the ship’s massive anchors. But photos taken later by divers show clearly that they were lying flat, with their flukes pointed upward; they never dug into the seabed, rendering them useless. What happened?

Konrad says it was a jaw-droppingly stupid mistake. “You can see they let out too much chain,” he says. “I don’t know the precise depths, but if it was 90 meters, they let out 120 meters of chain. So the anchors never caught. The ship then went in sideways, almost tripping over itself, which is why it listed. If he had dropped the anchors properly, the ship wouldn’t have listed so badly.”

What could explain so fundamental a blunder? Video of the chaos on the bridge that night later surfaced, and while it sheds little light on Schettino’s technical decisions, it says worlds about his state of mind. “From the video, you can tell he was stunned,” says Konrad. “The captain really froze. It doesn’t seem his brain was processing.”

Schettino did make efforts, however, to ensure that the ship was firmly grounded. As he told prosecutors, he left the bridge and went to Deck 9, near the top of the ship, to survey its position. He worried it was still afloat and thus still sinking; he asked for that tugboat, he said, with the thought it might push the ship onto solid ground. Eventually satisfied it already was, he finally gave the order to abandon ship at 10:58.

Lifeboats lined the railings on both sides of Deck 4. Because the Concordia was listing to starboard, it eventually became all but impossible to lower boats from the port side, the side facing open water; they would just bump against lower decks. As a result, the vast majority of those who evacuated the ship by lifeboat departed from the starboard side. Each boat was designed to hold 150 passengers. By the time Schettino called to abandon ship, roughly 2,000 people had been standing on Deck 4 for an hour or more, waiting. The moment crewmen began opening the lifeboat gates, chaos broke out.

“It was every man, woman, and child for themselves,” says Brian Aho, who crowded onto Lifeboat 19 with his wife, Joan Fleser, and their daughter.

“We had an officer in our lifeboat,” Fleser says. “That was the only thing that kept people from totally rioting. I ended up being first, then Brian and then Alana.”

“There was a man who was trying to elbow Alana out of the way,” Aho recalls, “and she pointed at me, yelling in Italian, ‘Mio papà! Mio papà!’ I saw her feet on the deck above me and I pulled her in by the ankles.”

“The thing I remember most is people’s screams. The cries of the women and children,” recalls Gianmaria Michelino, the hairdresser. “Children who couldn’t find their parents, women who wanted to find their husbands. Children were there on their own.”

Claudio Masia, a 49-year-old Italian, waiting with his wife, their two children, and his elderly parents, lost patience. “I am not ashamed to say that I pushed people and used my fists to secure a place” for his wife and children, he later told an Italian newspaper. Returning for his parents, Masia had to carry his mother, who was in her 80s, into a boat. When he returned for his father, Giovanni, an 85-year-old Sardinian, he had vanished. Masia ran up and down the deck, searching for him, but Giovanni Masia was never seen again.

‘Someone at our muster station called out, ‘Women and children first,’ ” recalls Benji Smith. “That really increased the panic level. The families who were sticking together, they’re being pulled apart. The women don’t want to go without their husbands, the husbands don’t want to lose their wives.”

After being momentarily separated from his wife, Smith pushed his way onto a lifeboat, which dangled about 60 feet above the water. Immediately, however, the crew had problems lowering it. “This is the first part where I thought my life was in danger,” Smith goes on. “The lifeboats have to be pushed out and lowered down. We weren’t being lowered down slowly and evenly from both directions. The stern side would fall suddenly by three feet, then the bow by two feet; port and starboard would tilt sharply to one side or the other. It was very jerky, very scary. The crew members were shouting at each other. They couldn’t figure out what they were doing.” Eventually, to Smith’s dismay, the crewmen simply gave up, cranked the lifeboat back up to the deck, and herded all the passengers back onto the ship.

Others, blocked or delayed in getting into lifeboats, threw themselves into the water and swam toward the rocks at Point Gabbianara, 100 yards way. One of these was a 72-year-old Argentinean judge named María Inés Lona de Avalos. Repeatedly turned away from crowded lifeboats, she sat on the deck amid the chaos. “I could feel the ship creaking, and we were already leaning halfway over,” she later told a Buenos Aires newspaper. A Spaniard beside her yelled, “There’s no other option! Let’s go!” And then he jumped.

A moment later Judge Lona, a fine swimmer in her youth, followed.

“I jumped feetfirst I couldn’t see much. I began swimming, but every 50 feet I would stop and look back. I could hear the ship creaking and was scared that it would fall on top of me if it capsized completely. I swam for a few minutes and reached the island.” She sat on a wet rock and exhaled.

A French couple, Francis and Nicole Servel, jumped as well, after Francis, who was 71, gave Nicole his life jacket because she couldn’t swim. As she struggled toward the rocks, she yelled, “Francis!,” and he replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” Francis Servel was never seen again.

The first lifeboats limped into the harbor a few minutes after 11.

By the time Giglio’s deputy mayor, Mario Pellegrini, reached the harbor, townspeople had begun to collect on its stone esplanade. “We’re all looking at the ship, trying to figure out what happened,” he recalls. “We thought it must be an engine breakdown of some kind. Then we saw the lifeboats dropping down, and the first ones began to arrive in the port.” Local schools and the church were opened, and the first survivors were hustled inside and given blankets. Every free space began to fill.

“I looked at the mayor and said, ‘We’re such a small port—we should open the hotels,’ ” Pellegrini says. “Then I said, ‘Maybe it’s better for me to go on board to see what’s going on.’ I didn’t have a minute to think. I just jumped on a lifeboat, and before I knew it I was out on the water.”

Reaching the ship, Pellegrini grabbed a rope ladder dangling from a lower deck. “As soon as I got on board, I started looking for someone in charge. There were just crew members, standing and talking on Deck 4, with the lifeboats. They had no idea what was going on. I said, ‘I’m looking for the captain, or someone in charge. I’m the deputy mayor! Where’s the captain?’ Everyone goes, ‘I don’t know. There’s no one in charge.’ I was running around like that for 20 minutes. I ran through all the decks. I eventually emerged on top, where the swimming pool is. Finally I found the guy in charge of hospitality. He didn’t have any idea what was going on, either. At that point the ship wasn’t really tilting all that badly. It was easy to load people into the lifeboats. So I went down and started to help out there.”

For the next half-hour or so, lifeboats shuttled people into the harbor. When a few returned to the starboard side, scores of passengers marooned on the port side sprinted through darkened passageways to cross the ship and reach them. Amanda Warrick, an 18-year-old Boston-area student, lost her footing on the slanting, slippery deck and fell down a small stairwell, where she found herself in knee-deep water. “The water was actually rising,” she says. “That was pretty scary.” Somehow, carrying a laptop computer and a bulky camera, she managed to scramble 50 feet across the deck and jump into a waiting boat.

While there was plenty of chaos aboard the Concordia that night, what few have noted is that, despite confused crew members and balky lifeboats, despite hundreds of passengers on the edge of panic, this first stage of the evacuation proceeded in a more-or-less orderly fashion. Between 11, when the first lifeboats dropped to the water, and about 12:15—a window of an hour and 15 minutes—roughly two-thirds of the people on board the ship, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,300 in all, made it to safety. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

Rescue at Sea

Ahelicopter arrived from the mainland at 11:45. It carried a doctor, a paramedic, and two rescue swimmers from the Vigili del Fuoco, Italy’s fire-and-rescue service. A van whisked them from Giglio’s airfield to the port, where the swimmers, Stefano Turchi, 49, and 37-year-old Paolo Scipioni, pushed through the crowds, boarded a police launch, and changed into orange wet suits. Before them, the Concordia, now listing at a 45-degree angle, was lit by spotlights from a dozen small boats bobbing at its side. The launch headed for the port bow, where people had been jumping into the water. As it approached, a Filipino crewman on a high deck suddenly leapt from the ship, falling nearly 30 feet into the sea. “Stefano and I swam about 30 meters to rescue him,” Scipioni says. “He was in shock, very tired, and freezing cold. We took him ashore and then went back to the ship.”

It was the first of six trips the two divers would make in the next two hours. On the second trip they pulled in a 60-year-old Frenchwoman floating in her life jacket near the bow. “Are you O.K.?” Turchi asked in French.

“I’m fine,” she said. Then she said, “I’m not fine.”

Next they pulled in a second Frenchwoman in an advanced state of hypothermia. “She was shaking uncontrollably,” Scipioni recalls. “She was conscious, but her face was violet and her hands were violet and her fingers were white. Her circulatory system was shutting down. She kept saying, ‘My husband, Jean-Pierre! My husband!’ We took her ashore and went back.”

On their fourth trip they lifted an unconscious man into the police launch; this was probably the woman’s husband, Jean-Pierre Micheaud, the night’s first confirmed death. He had died of hypothermia.

By 12:15 almost everyone on the *Concordia’*s starboard side had fled the ship. Among the last to go were Captain Schettino and a group of officers. After leaving the bridge, Schettino had gone to his cabin to grab some of his things, before rushing, he said, to help with the lifeboats. Minutes later, the Concordia began to roll slowly to starboard, falling almost onto its side. For a moment there was complete chaos as many of those still on the starboard side, including the second and third mates, were forced to dive into the water and swim for the rocks. It was at that point, Schettino famously claimed, that he lost his footing and fell onto the roof of a lifeboat. The captain later said his lifeboat plucked three or four people from the water.

Moments before the ship rolled, Giglio’s deputy mayor, Mario Pellegrini, scurried through a passageway, crossing the ship in an effort to help those still on the port side. “When we finished putting them on the boats, there was hardly anyone left on the right side of the boat,” Pellegrini recalls. “That’s when the ship started to tilt more. So I ran through a corridor, to the other side of the ship, and over there there were lots of people, hundreds, more than 500 probably.”

When the ship began to roll, “I couldn’t understand what was going on, the movement was so violent,” says Pellegrini. “Suddenly it was difficult to stand. It was very disorienting. If you took a step forward, you fell. You couldn’t tell which way was up or down. You couldn’t walk. All the people were forced against the walls. That’s when the panic hit, and the electricity went out as well. Lights winking out all over. And when the ship stopped moving, we were in the dark, just the moon, the light of the full moon. And everyone was screaming.” The ship’s chief doctor, a rotund Roman named Sandro Cinquini, was already on the port side. “The ship actually fell gently,” Cinquini recalls. “That was the worst time. People were trapped in the middle [of the ship] as it turned and the water began to rise.”

When the Concordia came to rest once more, its landscape was hopelessly skewed. With the ship lying almost on its right side, walls now became floors; hallways became vertical shafts. Pellegrini was on Deck 4, in a covered corridor with about 150 passengers; beyond was an open deck, where another 500 or so were struggling to regain their footing. When he was able to stand, Pellegrini glanced into the corridor behind—now below—him, and to his horror, he could see seawater surging toward him, as it was all across the starboard side of the ship, inundating the lowest decks and gushing into the restaurants on Deck 4. This was almost certainly the single deadliest moment of the night, when at least 15 people probably drowned. “That’s when I started getting afraid, for myself,” Pellegrini says. “And there were people still down there. You could hear them screaming.”

The screams seemed to be emanating from behind a single hatchway. Pellegrini, working with Dr. Cinquini and another crewman, threw his weight into lifting this door, which was now on the floor. When it came free, he looked down a near-vertical hallway 30 feet long. “There were people down there—it was like they were in a well filling up with water,” Pellegrini says. A crewman grabbed a rope and, swiftly making knots in it, dropped it down to those trapped below. “Four or five of us all began pulling people up from below. They came up one at a time. The first one who came out, a woman, she was so surprised, she came up feetfirst. I had to reach down and pull her out. We took out nine people in all. The first one had been in water up to her waist, the last one was in to his neck. The worst was an American guy, really fat, like 250 pounds, tall and obese; he was hard to get out. The last one was a waiter—his eyes were terrified. The water was freezing. The water was so cold, he couldn’t have survived much longer.”

“He told us there were others behind him,” says Dr. Cinquini, “but he could no longer see them.”

The ship’s roll trapped scores of passengers. Earlier, a Southern California family, Dean Ananias, his wife, Georgia, and their two daughters, aged 31 and 23, had boarded a lifeboat on the port side but were forced to return on board when the *Concordia’*s list rendered the port-side boats useless. Crossing to starboard, they were standing in a darkened hallway, inching forward near the end of a long line of people, when Dean heard the crash of plates and glasses and the ship started to roll.

People began to scream. The family fell to the floor. Dean felt sure the ship was turning completely over, as seen in The Poseidon Adventure. To his amazement, it didn’t. Once the ship settled, the Ananiases found themselves stomach-down on a steep incline; Dean realized they had to crawl upward, back to the port side, which was now above their heads. They grabbed a railing and managed to pull themselves almost all the way to the open deck at the top. But five feet short of the opening, the railing suddenly stopped.

“We started trying to pull ourselves up,” recalls Dean, a retired teacher. “We got up against the wall, and that’s when my daughter Cindy said, ‘I’m gonna launch myself up, push me up and I’ll grab a railing.’ She did it. So did the others. I knew they couldn’t pull me up because I’m larger, so I pulled myself into a frog position and jumped as high as I could.” He made it. But even then, with dozens of people slipping and sliding all around them and no officers in sight, Dean couldn’t see a way off the ship. “I knew we were going to die,” he recalls. “We all just started praying.”

Someone called from below. Turning, they saw a young Argentinean couple, clearly exhausted, holding a toddler. They hadn’t the energy to jump upward. The woman beseeched Georgia to take the child. “Here,” she pleaded, raising the three-year-old, “take my daughter.” Georgia did, then thought better of it. She handed the infant back, saying, “Here, take the child. She should be with you. If the end is going to happen, she should be with her parents.” (They evidently survived.)

While Dean Ananias pondered his next move, Benji Smith and his wife had already crossed to the port side amidships. A crewman urged them to go back. “No, that side is sinking!” Smith barked. “We can’t go there!”

After a few minutes, Smith was startled to see his in-laws approach; on a crewman’s order, they had returned to their rooms and, unable to understand the English-language announcements, had remained inside so long they missed the lifeboats. At that point, Smith recalls, “we were listing so severely the walls were slowly turning into floors, and we realized that if we don’t make a decisive move quickly, if we want to jump, we won’t be able to.” Boats were bobbing far below; at this point, anyone who leapt from a port railing would simply land further down the hull. Somehow, Smith saw, they had to get closer to the boats. The only obvious way down was along the outer hull, now tilted at a steep angle. It was like a giant slippery slide, but one Smith could see was far too dangerous to use.

Then he saw the rope. Hurriedly Smith tied a series of knots into it, then tied one end to the outer railing. He explained to his frightened relatives that their only option was to rappel down the hull. “We hugged each other and said our good-byes, and I told everyone, ‘I love you,’ ” Smith says. “We really felt, all of us, that dying was in the cards.”

Smith was among the first over the side. With the ship listing to starboard, the angle wasn’t that steep; in two bounds he made it to Deck 3 below. His family followed. Looking up, Smith saw worried faces staring down at them.

“The language barriers made it difficult to talk, but using our hands and waving, we got a bunch of people down to the third deck,” Smith says. “Then I re-tied the rope to the railing on Deck 3, thinking we could climb down this rope and position ourselves to jump in the water, or the boats. So we started climbing down the rope, all six of us. And then, up above us, a steady stream of people began to follow.”

Soon, Smith estimates, there were 40 people hanging on to his rope at the ship’s midsection, among them the Ananias family. What they should do next, no one had a clue.

A Huge Black Buffalo

The Coast Guard helicopter base responsible for operations in the Tyrrhenian Sea is a cluster of office buildings and hangars in the town of Sarzana, 130 miles northwest of Giglio. Its commander, a ruggedly handsome 49-year-old named Pietro Mele, had been asleep when the first call came in from the operations center. Not until a second call, at 10:35, just minutes before the Concordia ran aground, was he told that the ship in trouble carried 4,000 people. “Holy shit,” Mele said to himself. The largest rescue his unit had ever attempted was a dozen people plucked from a sinking freighter off the city of La Spezia in 2005.

Mele called in every available pilot. By the time he reached the base, at 11:20, the first helicopter, a slow-moving Agusta Bell 412 code-named “Koala 9,” was already rising from the tarmac for the hour-long flight south. A half-hour later a second helicopter, a faster model code-named “Nemo 1,” followed suit. “We expected to find something there all lit up, a floating Christmas tree, but instead what we found was this huge black buffalo lying on its side in the water,” Mele recalls.

Both helicopters were, figuratively and literally, operating in the dark. There was no chance of communication with anyone on board; the only way to assess the situation, in fact, was to lower a man onto the Concordia. The pilot of Nemo 1, Salvatore Cilona, slowly circled the ship, searching for a safe spot to try it. For several minutes he studied the midsection but determined that the helicopter’s downdraft, combined with the precarious angle of the ship, made this too dangerous.

“The ship was listing at 80 degrees, so there was incredible risk of slipping off,” recalls Nemo 1’s rescue diver, Marco Savastano.

Moving toward the bow, they saw clusters of people waving for help. Savastano, a slender Coast Guard veteran with a receding hairline, thought he could alight safely on a slanting passageway beside the bridge. At about 12:45, Savastano climbed into a “horse collar” harness and allowed himself to be winched down to the ship. Extricating himself, he dropped through an open door into the total blackness inside the bridge. To his surprise, he found 56 people clustered inside, most pressed against the far wall.

“What really struck me was the total silence of these 56 people,” he remembers, shaking his head. “The look on their faces was totally fixed, just an empty look. They were in a state of unreality. It was very dark. I asked if anyone was injured. No one was hurt seriously. I tried my best to calm them down.”

After Savastano radioed in the situation, a second diver, Marco Restivo, joined him on the bridge. It was clear the older passengers were in no shape to walk far. Savastano and Restivo decided to begin winching people up to the helicopters. Savastano chose an especially shaken Spanish woman, about 60, to go first. “She didn’t want to leave her husband,” he recalls. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry about it. As soon as I get you on board, I will come back for your husband.’ ”

By the time Savastano was ready to return to the Concordia, the pilot had spotted two passengers in a precarious position, sitting on an open door about 25 feet below the bridge. “We just saw flashing lights, so we followed the lights down,” Savastano recalls. Reaching the open door, he found two Asian crew members, begging for rescue. “Their faces, they were just so terrified,” he recalls. “They were in such a dangerous position, I had to give them priority. It was very tricky because the space was so tight. Every movement of the helo put us at risk. If it moved just a little, the passengers would strike the side of the ship and be crushed. Me too. I went down and began to try to rescue them, but I kept slipping. The floor was very slippery, and the ship was so tilted. The first guy, I got him into the strap, but he wouldn’t stay still. I had to keep pushing his arms down, so he wouldn’t fall out [of the horse collar]. When I finally got him up [to the helicopter], he just fainted.”

Savastano returned to the ship, and had just begun winching the second crew member aloft when, to his surprise, a porthole suddenly opened and a ghostly face appeared. “Fuck!” he shouted.

Savastano raised a clenched fist, signaling the winch operator to stop lifting him. The face belonged to one of five passengers who were stuck on a lower deck with no way out. “Then the pilot told me we only had two minutes left—we were running out of fuel—so I said to these people, ‘Don’t move! We will be right back!’ ” With three passengers now aboard, Nemo 1 wheeled into the night sky and headed to the town of Grosseto to refuel.

Before his lifeboat had reached the rocks, Captain Schettino’s cell phone rang once more. This time it was one of the Coast Guard supervisors at Livorno, Gregorio De Falco. It was 12:42.

“We’ve abandoned ship,” Schettino told him.

De Falco was startled. “You’ve abandoned ship?” he asked.

Schettino, no doubt sensing De Falco’s dismay, said, “I did not abandon the ship … we were thrown into the water.”

When De Falco put down the phone, he stared at the officers beside him in amazement. This violated every tenet of maritime tradition, not to mention Italian law. “The captain had abandoned ship with hundreds of people on board, people who trusted him,” says De Falco’s boss, Cosma Scaramella. “This is an extremely serious thing, not just because it’s a crime.” For a moment he struggles to find a word. “This,” he goes on, “is an infamy. To abandon women and children, it’s like a doctor who abandons his patients.”

The lifeboat carrying Schettino and his officers did not head into the harbor. Instead, it disgorged its passengers at the nearest land, along the rocks at Point Gabbianara. A few dozen people were already there, most of them having swum. “I noticed the captain did not help, in any way,” a crewman told investigators, “neither in the recovery of people in the water, nor in coordinating rescue operations. He remained on the rocks watching the ship sink.”

Giglio’s rock-jawed police chief, Roberto Galli, had been among the first islanders to pull alongside the Concordia, in a police launch, just after it ran aground. At 12:15, having returned to the docks to coordinate rescue efforts, Galli glanced into the distance and noticed something strange: a set of twinkling lights—“like Christmas lights,” he recalls—on the rocks at Point Gabbianara. With a start, Galli realized the lights must be from life preservers, meaning there were survivors, probably cold and wet, out on the boulders at the water’s edge. He grabbed two of his men and drove two miles from the port to a roadside high above the Concordia. From there, navigating by the light of his cell phone, Galli and his officers stumbled down the barren slope. He fell twice. It took 20 minutes.

When he reached the rocks below, Galli was stunned to find 110 shivering survivors. There were women, children, and elderly, and few spoke any Italian. Galli and his men called for a bus and began herding them all up the rocky slope toward the road above. Returning to the water’s edge, he was surprised to find a group of four or five people who had remained behind. He glanced at the *Concordia’*s giant gold smokestack, which was looming toward them; he was worried it might explode.

“Come, come!” Galli announced. “It’s too dangerous to stay here.”

“We’re officers from the ship,” a voice replied.

Galli was startled to find himself talking to Captain Schettino and another officer, Dimitrios Christidis. As several people observed, the captain was not wet.

“I was shocked,” Galli recalls. “I could see on the ship there were major operations going on. I could see helicopters lifting passengers off the ship. I said, ‘Come with me. I’ll take you to the port, and then you can get back to the ship,’ because I thought that was their job. Schettino said, ‘No, I want to stay here, to verify conditions on the ship.’ For about 30 minutes, I stayed with them, watching. At one point, Schettino asked to use my telephone, because his was running out of juice. I wasn’t giving this guy my phone. Because, unlike him, I was trying to save people. Finally, when I was about to leave, they asked for a blanket and tea. I said, ‘If you come back with me, I’ll give you whatever you want.’ But he didn’t move. So I left.”

Not long after, at 1:46, the angry Coast Guard officer, De Falco, telephoned Schettino once more. The captain was still sitting on his rock, staring glumly at the Concordia. De Falco had heard there was a rope ladder hanging from the bow of the ship. “Schettino? Listen, Schettino,” he began. “There are people trapped on board. Now you go with your boat under the prow on the starboard side. There’s a rope ladder. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear? I’m recording this conversation, Captain Schettino.”

Schettino tried to object, but De Falco wasn’t having it. “You go up that rope ladder, get on that ship, and tell me how many people are still on board, and what they need. Is that clear? … I’m going to make sure you get in trouble. I’m going to make you pay for this. Get the fuck on board!”

“Captain, please,” Schettino begged.

“No ‘please.’ You get moving and go on board now … ”

“I am here with the rescue boats. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“What are you doing, Captain?”

“I am here to coordinate the rescue … ”

“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Are you refusing?”

They bickered another minute. “But you realize it’s dark and we can’t see anything,” Schettino pleaded.

“And so what?” De Falco demanded. “You want to go home, Schettino? It’s dark and you want to go home?”

Schettino offered more excuses. De Falco cut him off one last time.

“Go! Immediately!”

Later, I asked De Falco’s boss, Cosma Scaramella, whether he thought the captain was in shock. “I don’t know,” Scaramella told me. “He didn’t seem very lucid.”

A half-hour or so after his last call from the Coast Guard, a rescue boat plucked Schettino from his rock and ferried him to the harbor. He talked to the police for a bit, then found a priest, who later said the captain, in a daze, cried for a very long time.

By one A.M., with the Concordia now lying almost flat on its side, between 700 and 1,000 people remained on board. Clumps of people were scattered throughout the ship, many clinging to railings. About 40 were hanging on Benji Smith’s rope amidships. Almost everyone else had congregated in a panicky crowd of 500 or more toward the stern, on the port side of Deck 4, facing the sea. Many of these had taken refuge in a cramped passageway; others remained on the deck outside. Dozens of boats had gathered, about 60 feet below—the Coast Guard later counted 44 different craft in use by dawn—but there was no easy route to them.

To date, no one has identified exactly who found the long rope ladder and tossed it down to the water. One of the boatmen below, the tobacco-shop owner Giovanni Rossi, recalls a Filipino crewman who scaled up and down it several times, trying to coordinate a rescue. According to Mario Pellegrini, who was mired in the chaos above, two crewmen worked with him to supervise the aborning escape attempt: the doctor, Sandro Cinquini, and especially young Simone Canessa, the same officer who earlier in the evening told the Coast Guard the ship had suffered only a blackout. Canessa’s role in the evacuation has not been mentioned publicly; yet according to Pellegrini, he was the single most effective crewman still working to evacuate the ship during the long night’s most harrowing hours.

“When I got up there and saw Simone, he was the boss, he was the only one up there really helping,” says Pellegrini. “When he realized I was there to help, he saw we could work together. He was fantastic. Simone, I think, created this whole escape route. He was at the top. I did my best to help him.”

“I am not a hero: I did my job,” Canessa told VANITY FAIR in a brief telephone interview. “I did everything I could to save everyone I could.”

It was Canessa, Pellegrini believes, who found an aluminum ladder and leaned it skyward, onto the outer railing of Deck 4, which was now above their heads. A passenger could climb this ladder to the railing above, then, grabbing the rope ladder, scoot on his rear down the hull to the boats. It was risky, but doable. The problem was establishing an orderly procedure. “The only way out, for everyone, was this small aluminum ladder,” Pellegrini says. “When the ship fell and panic first hit, everyone threw themselves at this ladder. They had no regard for anyone else. It was horrible. I just remember all the children crying.”

“A crowd is an ugly monster if there is panic,” says Dr. Cinquini, who tried in vain to calm people. “No one was listening to me. They were running up and down, slipping, ready to throw themselves in There were a lot of children. You couldn’t convince them [to calm down]. People were out of their minds. The fathers, who are often more fragile than the mothers, were losing it, while the mothers were trying to maintain a certain level of calm.”

“There was a couple with a small child, a three-year-old in a life jacket,” Pellegrini recalls. “When the mother went on the ladder, the father tried to lift the child up. As he’s doing that, someone else shoves in front. The mother is pulling the life jacket; the father holds on; the kid is almost choking. It was horrible. I started yelling at people, ‘Don’t be animals! Stop being animals!’ I shouted this many times, to allow the children in. It had no effect.”

“People were shouting, crying; people were falling over; there was total panic,” recalls a 31-year-old advertising salesman named Gianluca Gabrielli, who managed to climb the ladder with his wife and their two small children. Outside, on the hull, “I felt alive,” Gabrielli says. “I had gotten out. I saw the patrol boats, the helicopters. People were somehow calmer up here. I felt better. I took one child, my eldest, Giorgia. My wife took the other. We started going down the rope ladder clutching each child in front of us as we went down on our bottoms. We were afraid the wood in between the rope ladder would break. I told the kids to think it was just like going down the ladder of their bunk beds, to think of it like an adventure. Me? I felt like Rambo on the Titanic. ”

The crowd began to calm only when Pellegrini and Cinquini managed to herd many of them out of the packed passageway onto the open deck alongside. “From there we could see the stars,” recalls Cinquini. “It was a beautiful night, calm and indifferent to the chaos. Once out in the open the people saw the land was close by and that calmed them.”

Slowly, order returned. Pellegrini took control of the line to the aluminum ladder, holding children while parents climbed, then handing them up. Somewhere fuel had spilled, however, and footing on the inclined deck had become treacherous. The hardest part came when passengers reached the top of the ladder and confronted the long, thin rope ladder descending to the sea. “It was incredibly difficult,” says Pellegrini. “The parents didn’t want to let go of the children. The kids didn’t want to let go of the parents. The most difficult were the elderly. They didn’t want to let go [of the railing] and descend. There was this one woman, it took 15 minutes to move her. She was so frightened, I had to physically pry her fingers free.”

One by one, people inched down the rope ladder, most scooting on their rear ends. Dozens of people were on the ladder at once. Infra-red footage from the helicopters shows the incredible scene, a long spray of tiny darkened figures on the outer hull, clinging to the rope ladder, looking for all the world like a line of desperate ants. “No one fell—not one,” Pellegrini says with a smile. “We didn’t lose a single person.”

At the bottom of the rope ladder, boats took turns picking up the exhausted passengers, helping them jump down the last five or six feet to safety. Giovanni Rossi and his crew alone managed to ferry at least 160 of them safely into the harbor.

Abandoning Ship

Not everyone made it to safety, however. Among those lending help on Deck 4 was the kindly 56-year-old hotel director, Manrico Giampedroni. As people shimmied down the hull, Giampedroni spied a group at the far end of the ship. “I wanted to go and rescue these people,” he told the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana, “because at times a word of comfort, the sight of a uniform, or a friendly person is enough to inspire courage. Staying in a group is one thing; alone is much more difficult. I headed to the bow, walking on the walls; the ship was so tilted you had to stay on the walls.”

As he walked, Giampedroni tapped on the doors now at his feet, listening for responses that never came. He didn’t bother trying any of them; they all opened from the inside. Or so he thought. He had just stepped on a door outside the Milano Restaurant when, to his dismay, it gave way. Suddenly he was falling into darkness. He slammed into a wall about 15 feet down, then tumbled down what felt like half the ship, finally landing, ominously, in seawater up to his neck. He felt a stabbing pain in his left leg; it was broken in two places. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was inside the restaurant, now a vast, freezing swimming pool jammed with floating tables and chairs. He realized the water was slowly rising.

Giampedroni managed to crawl atop the metal base of a table, balancing himself on one leg, as he shouted and shouted and shouted for help.

No one came.

The line of people on Benji Smith’s rope remained there for two solid hours, bathed in spotlights from the boats below. It was cold; their arms ached. When the helicopters hovered overhead, everyone shouted and waved their arms.

“The boats didn’t know what to do, how to get close,” Smith says. “Finally one of the lifeboats came back. The crew had to stabilize it, but with all the waves from the other boats, it kept crashing into the ship. Crash crash crash crash. It had this little gate, like three feet wide. We needed to jump down three or four feet into the gate, but the boat is moving back and forth, crashing into the hull. Someone could easily lose their legs if they don’t jump just right.” The crewmen below tried holding on to the end of Smith’s rope, but when the boat lurched, so did the rope, triggering panicked shouts up and down its length. Finally, Smith and his wife, along with several others, decided to leap onto the lifeboat’s roof. “We heard this crunching noise when we landed,” he says. “But we made it.”

When the lifeboat was finally stabilized, the crewmen slowly helped the others off the rope. In this way about 120 more people escaped unharmed.

By five o’clock almost all of the 4,200 passengers and crew had made it off the ship, by lifeboat, jumping into the water, or scuttling down ropes and ladders on the port side. Rescue divers had returned and winched 15 more into helicopters; the last passengers on the bridge were slowly led down to the rope ladder. Fire-rescue teams had begun climbing onto the ship, looking for stragglers. As they searched, the only people they found were Mario Pellegrini; Simone Canessa; the doctor, Sandro Cinquini; and a Korean hostess who had slipped and broken her ankle. “I put it in plaster,” says Cinquini. “I hugged her the whole time because she was shaking. Then a short time later everything was done. The four of us could go down. But the deputy mayor stayed.”

“Once everything was done, there was a bit of calm,” says Pellegrini. “[Canessa and I] took a megaphone and [started] calling to see if anyone was still on board. Up and down Deck 4, we did this twice. We opened all the doors, shouting, ‘Is anyone there?’ We didn’t hear any response.”

They were among the last to leave the Concordia. Pellegrini climbed down the rope ladder and a few minutes later found himself standing safely on the harbor’s stone esplanade. As the sun began to rise, he turned to Cinquini. “Come on, Doctor, I’ll buy you a beer,” he said, and that is what he did.

All that night and into the dawn, hundreds of exhausted passengers stood along the harbor or huddled inside Giglio’s church and the adjacent Hotel Bahamas, where the owner, Paolo Fanciulli, emptied every bottle in his bar—for free—and fielded calls from reporters all over the world.

By midmorning passengers began boarding ferries for the long road home. It was then, around 11:30, that Captain Schettino materialized at the hotel, alone, asking for a pair of dry socks. A TV crew spotted him and had just stuck a microphone in his face when a woman, apparently a cruise-line official, appeared and herded him away.

All day Saturday, rescue workers fanned out across the ship, looking for survivors. Sunday morning they found a pair of South Korean newlyweds still in their stateroom; safe but shivering, they had slept through the impact, waking to find the hallway so steeply inclined that they couldn’t safely navigate it. Somehow, though, no one found poor Manrico Giampedroni, the hotel director, who remained perched on a table above the water in the Milano Restaurant. He could hear the emergency crews and banged a saucepan to get their attention, but it was no use. When the water rose, he managed to crawl to a dry wall. He stayed there all day Saturday, his broken leg throbbing, sipping from cans of Coke and a bottle of Cognac he found floating by. Finally, around four A.M. Sunday, a fireman heard his shouts. It took three hours to lift him from his watery perch. He hugged the fireman for all he was worth. Airlifted to a mainland hospital, Giampedroni was the last person taken off the ship alive.

The toll of the dead and missing climbed to 32. By mid-March, all but two of their bodies had been found. A few, it appears, perhaps seven or eight, died after jumping into the water, either from drowning or hypothermia. Most, however, were found inside the ship, suggesting they had drowned when the Concordia rolled a little after midnight.

A Hungarian violinist, Sandor Feher, helped several children put on life jackets before heading back to his cabin to pack his instrument; he drowned. One of the most heartbreaking stories involved the only child to die, a five-year-old Italian girl named Dayana Arlotti, who drowned with her father, William. He had severe diabetes, and the two may have gone back to their cabin to retrieve medicine. Mario Pellegrini thought they might be the panicked father and daughter he saw late that night, running back and forth on Deck 4, asking for help.

Three months after the disaster, investigations into the wreck of the Concordia plod onward. Captain Schettino, who remains under house arrest at his home near Naples, could face multiple charges of manslaughter and illegally abandoning his ship once formally indicted. Persistent leaks suggest that another half-dozen officers, as well as officials at Costa Cruises, could eventually face charges. In March, a dozen survivors and their families filed into a theater in the coastal city of Grosseto to give testimony. Outside, the streets were jammed with reporters. Few believed they would see justice for those who died aboard the Concordia, at least not anytime soon. “At the end of all this,” one man predicted, “it will all be for nothing. You wait and see.”

The Concordia itself remains where it fell that night, on the rocks at Point Gabbianara. Salvage workers finally managed to drain its fuel tanks in March, lessening the possibility of environmental damage. But the ship will take an estimated 10 to 12 months to remove. If you study it today from the harbor at Giglio, there is something unearthly about the ship, a sense, however slight, that it has suddenly appeared from a bygone era, when ships still sank and people died. This was something that several survivors remarked on afterward, that amazingly, in a world of satellites and laser-guided weapons and instant communication almost anywhere on earth, ships could still sink. As the Italian survivor Gianluca Gabrielli said, “I never believed this could still happen in 2012.”

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

Bryan Burrough

Bryan burrough is a special correspondent at *vanity fair.*, cocktail hour.

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Striking photos as sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia lies in shallow waters

Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio island. Rescuers were painstakingly checking thousands of cabins on the Italian liner for 16 people still unaccounted for out of the 4,200 who were on board.

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Update: Rescue workers found five bodies on Tuesday in the submerged part of the Italian cruise liner that capsized off Italy’s west coast, bringing the death toll to 11.

The Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio Island on Friday.

Italian cave-rescue divers are painstakingly checking thousands of debris-filled cabins on the Italian liner Monday for more than 20 people still unaccounted for out of the 4,200 who were on board.

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Worsening weather and heavy seas earlier made the wreck slip on the rocky underwater slope where it is lodged off the island of Giglio and rescue teams were evacuated. But they returned to work after several hours. Eleven bodies have been found so far.

The divers wear wetsuits reinforced with Kevlar — the same material used to make bullet-proof vests — and have a guide line to open water, just as they do when exploring caves.

[np-related]

The vessel’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested on Saturday. He is accused of manslaughter and abandoning his ship before all those on board were evacuated.

The chief executive of the ship’s owners, Costa Cruises, on Monday blamed human error by Schettino for the disaster. Pier Luigi Foschi told a news conference the company would provide its captain with any assistance he required. “But we need to acknowledge the facts and we cannot deny human error,” he added.

“He carried out a manoeuvre which had not been approved by us and we disassociate ourselves from such behaviour,” Costa Crociere boss Pier Luigi Foschi said at a press conference in Genoa.

“If there had been a technical problem, the alarm would have sounded. There was no problem with safety on the ship. It has ultra-secure safety features.”

Words © 2012 Thomson Reuters

With files from AFP

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Read more from the Post’s Matt Gurney on the ignored scandal in the Costa Concordia disaster:

‘[A]mid the updates on the dead and missing, the speculation about possible environmental catastrophe and the human interest angle of the reckless captain, something is largely missing — the ship had been at sea for hours when the disaster occurred, and no evacuation drill had been conducted. Indeed, one wasn’t scheduled for another 24 hours’

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sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

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Inside the Rotting Wreck of the Costa Concordia

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

The 2012 Costa Concordia shipwreck is the most famous maritime disaster of the 21st century. In January of that year, the cruise ship struck a rock off the Mediterranean island of Isola del Giglio and began listing dangerously to starboard, eventually settling at a near 90-degree tilt in shallow water. Despite the calm seas and the proximity to land, 32 people were killed.

Now, the wrecked remains of the gigantic ocean liner are being scrapped in the port of Genoa, Italy. Its 50,000 tons of steel are being melted down and will be used in future construction and ship building projects.

Last August, German photographer Jonathan Danko Kielkowski, swam out to the ship, climbed aboard and spent several hours exploring its passageways and chambers. These photos are the result, and he’s turned them into an art book . You can also see them in person at the upcoming Los Angeles Art Book Fair , which runs from February 12 to February 14.

Photo: What was once a bar is now a fetid morass of collapsed ceiling and sea-bottom gunk.

A former theater lies destroyed and rotting.

A former theater lies destroyed and rotting.

A dining room that used to feature a fabulous chandelier now lies in muddy disarray.

A dining room that used to feature a fabulous chandelier now lies in muddy disarray.

A former state room, one of the most expensive on the ship, looks unfit for human habitation.

A former state room, one of the most expensive on the ship, looks unfit for human habitation.

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is now moored in a floating dock; the entire right side of the ship is ripped open.

The wreck of the Costa Concordia is now moored in a floating dock; the entire right side of the ship is ripped open.

“The cruise ship industry wants to paint this very sanitized image of what happens aboard its ships” says Jonathan, “But, the reality isn’t always fun in the sun. People get sick, fall overboard, and die in these accidents.”

“The cruise ship industry wants to paint this very sanitized image of what happens aboard its ships” says Jonathan, “But, the reality isn’t always fun in the sun. People get sick, fall overboard, and die in these accidents.”

The thing that struck Jonathan most? “The piles of personal belongings left behind by the passengers as they tried to escape.”

The thing that struck Jonathan most? “The piles of personal belongings left behind by the passengers as they tried to escape.”

A view of the bridge, as it now lies moored in Genoa.

A view of the bridge, as it now lies moored in Genoa.

“It smelled like rotting fish, and mold, and I don’t even know the word for it,” Jonathan says. “The workers dismantling the ship work in full hazmat suits with respirators.”

“It smelled like rotting fish, and mold, and I don’t even know the word for it,” Jonathan says. “The workers dismantling the ship work in full hazmat suits with respirators.”

A view of the Costa Concordia from dockside in Genoa.

A view of the Costa Concordia from dockside in Genoa.

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10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster vivid for survivors

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FILE — The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side after it ran aground off the coast of the Isola del Giglio island, Italy on Jan. 13, 2012. Italy is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Modesti)

FILE— The grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen through a window on the Isola del Giglio island, Italy, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Oil removal ships near the cruise ship Costa Concordia leaning on its side Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, after running aground near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, last Friday night. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— The Costa Concordia ship lies on its side on the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

FILE— A sunbather gets her tan on a rock during the operations to refloat the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia on the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Once the ship has refloated it will be towed to Genoa’s port, about 200 nautical miles (320 kilometers), where it will be dismantled. 30 months ago it struck a reef and capsized, killing 32 people. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— The wrecked hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is towed along the Tyrrhenian Sea, 30 miles off the coast of Viareggio, Italy, Friday, July 25, 2014. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Fabio Muzzi)

FILE— A view of the previously submerged side of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, off the coast of the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— A passenger from South Korea, center, walks with Italian Firefighters, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, after being rescued from the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia which ran aground on the tiny Italian island of Isola del Giglio. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

FILE— A woman hangs her laundry as the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen in the background, off the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap.(AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— In this photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, Francesco Schettino, right, the captain of the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, is taken into custody by Carabinieri in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Giacomo Aprili)

Experts aboard a sea platform carry oil recovery equipment, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, as they return to the port of the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, where the cruise ship Costa Concordia, visible in background, ran aground on Ja. 13, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Seagulls fly in front of the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia off the Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

FILE— Italian firefighters conduct search operations on the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia that ran aground the tiny Tuscan island of Isola del Giglio, Italy, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers and crew from the ship on that rainy Friday night and then lived with the Concordia carcass for another two years before it was hauled away for scrap. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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GIGLIO, Italy (AP) — Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio. But for the passengers on board and the residents who welcomed them ashore, the memories of that harrowing, freezing night remain vividly etched into their minds.

The dinner plates that flew off the tables when the rocks first gashed the hull. The blackout after the ship’s engine room flooded and its generators failed. The final mad scramble to evacuate the listing liner and then the extraordinary generosity of Giglio islanders who offered shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun rose and passengers were ferried to the mainland.

Italy on Thursday is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration that will end with a candlelit vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: 9:45 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2012. The events will honor the 32 people who died that night, the 4,200 survivors, but also the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with the Concordia’s wrecked carcass off their shore for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.

“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always refer to whether it was before or after the Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 and fishing on the jetty when the darkened Concordia listed toward shore and then collapsed onto its side in the water.

“I imagine it like a nail stuck to the wall that marks that date, as a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue effort that night, helping pull ashore the dazed, injured and freezing passengers from lifeboats.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month warned people across-the-board not to go on cruises , regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety still isn’t a top priority for the cruise ship industry. Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship close too shore in a stunt. He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower because the ship was listing too heavily.

“I always said this will not define me, but you have no choice,” Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles, Calif. “We all suffer from PTSD. We had a lot of guilt that we survived and 32 other people died.”

Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the ship. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.

Ananias and her family declined Costa’s initial $14,500 compensation offered to each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of U.S.-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and therapy for the post-traumatic stress they have suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and then Italian court system, they lost their case.

“I think people need to be aware that when you go on a cruise, that if there is a problem, you will not have the justice that you may be used to in the country in which you are living,” said Ananias, who went onto become a top official in the International Cruise Victims association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety aboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, stressed in a statement to The Associated Press that passenger and crew safety was the industry’s top priority, and that cruising remains one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” CLIA said. It said it has worked over the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “drive a safety culture that is based on continuous improvement.”

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the capsized ship, the scramble to coordinate rescue services on shore, the recovery of the first bodies and then the pride that islanders rose to the occasion to tend to the survivors.

Ortelli was later on hand when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 300-meter (1,000-foot) long cruise ship was righted vertical off its seabed graveyard in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains seared in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the response of the people was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. “But then we realized that on that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

Winfield reported from Rome.

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

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Costa Concordia

Costa Cruises statements on the Concordia ship disaster

Sunday 15 january.

Time 8.15 pm (CET)

We at Costa Cruises are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected and offer the determined victims' families her heartfelt condolences.

Over the past 48 hours, more than 1,100 Costa employees have been working tirelessly in the wake of this terrible event. We are working closely with the authorities to support ongoing search and rescue operations, and are focusing on ensuring that all guests and crewmembers return home safely.

Our immediate priority is to account for all passengers and crew and to secure the vessel to ensure that there are no environmental impacts. We have engaged the services of a worldwide leader specialized salvage company to develop an action plan and help establish a protection perimeter around the ship. It should be noted that the Prosecutor in charge has seized the ship and the DVR-- so called "black box" containing all navigation data and the vessel can be accessed by Costa only with permission from the authorities.

We are working with investigators to find out precisely what went wrong aboard the Costa Concordia . While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences. 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. We are aware that the lead Prosecutor has levelled serious accusations against the ship's Captain, who joined Costa Crociere in 2002 as a Safety Officer and was appointed Captain in 2006, after acting as Staff Captain as well. As all Costa Masters, he has been constantly trained passing all tests. In light of these accusations and the continuing investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.

As we are learning more about the event itself and the evacuation, however, it is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation. We are very grateful for all they have done.

Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again. Our number one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew and we comply with all safety regulations. (See background on Costa safety below).

Background on Costa's commitment to safety

Costa complies very strictly with all safety regulations and our personnel are committed, first and foremost, to guest safety and security.

All crew members hold a BST (Basic Safety Training) certificate and are trained and prepared to emergency management and to assist passengers abandoning the ship with numerous drills. Roles, responsibilities and duties are clearly assigned to all crew members. Every two weeks all crewmembers perform a ship evacuation simulation. A lifeboat and evacuation drill for all guests is conducted within 24 hours of embarking, as required by law. Costa has a computerised system which ensures all passengers undergo this drill.

The skills of Costa crew are periodically tested by Coastguard authorities and an independent classification organization as per SMS (Safety Management Systems) requirements.

There are lifeboats and jackets on board in excess of the number required for all passengers and crew. Lifeboats are equipped with food and water supplies, first aid kits and communication and signalling equipment. All life-saving appliances are aligned to international standards and are subject to close, regular inspection by shipboard personnel and certification authorities. All Costa ships are certified by RINA and have been built to the highest standards and technologies.

Saturday, January 14 2012

Time 5.30 pm (CET)

"I want to express our deep sorrow for this terrible tragedy that devastates us" - said Gianni Onorato President Costa Crociere - "I am here only now because, as you will understand, I have been from the down until now on the Isola del Giglio to be close to the rescue operations.

First at all, I would like to thank all the authorities, law enforcement and volunteers who made all efforts to help and assist our Guests involved in this terrible event."

We are not at this time able to provide an answer to all the questions, because the competent authority are trying with our cooperative efforts to understand the reasons for this incident.

On the basis of the first evidences, still preliminary the ship Costa Concordia under the command of the Master Francesco Schettino was regularly sailing from Civitavecchia to Savona, when suddenly the ship stroked a rock.

The Master who was on the bridge at that time, understood the severity of the situation immediately performed a maneuver aimed to secure Guests and crew, and started the security procedures in order to prepare for an eventual ship evacuation.

Unfortunately, this operation was complicated as result of a sudden tilt of the ship that has made difficult the disembarkation.

Thanks to the commitment of all forces coordinated by the Coast Guard, from that moment on, rescue operations have been further strengthened.

From the first time the company mobilized all its resources ashore to put in to assist our guests and crew members and prevent possible environmental impacts.

Time 12.00 pm (CET)

The Costa Concordia accident happened tonight it's a tragedy that deeply shocked our company.

Our first thought goes to the victims and we would like to express our deepest condolences to their families and friends.

We're close to the people who have been injured and we're following their progress.

All our efforts are now concentrated in assisting the guests and the crew who were on board, to bring them home as soon as possible.

The Costa Cruises customer service has already started contacting by phone all the guests who were supposed to board today in Savona and starting from tomorrow in the scheduled ports.

At the moment no changes have been planned to the schedule of the other Costa Cruises ships.

People looking for assistance can contact the call centre number 08453510552.

All the Costa Cruises people would like to thank from the deepest of their hearts the Guardia Costiera, the authorities and the citizens of the Giglio Island and of Porto Santo Stefano who helped and assisted the guests and the crew.

They also thank the doctors who are assisting the injured and anyone in need of assistance.

The Company is cooperating with the Authorities that are investigating on the accident.

Time 5.00 am (CET)

It is a tragedy that deeply affects our company. Our first thoughts go to the victims and we would like to express our condolences and our closeness to their families and friends. In this moment all our efforts are focused on the completion of the last emergency operations, besides providing assistance to the guests and the crew who were onboard in order to have them going back home as soon as possible. The emergency procedures started promptly to evacuate the ship. The slope, gradually taken over by the ship, made the evacuation extremely difficult. We would like to express our profound gratitude to the Coast Guard and all the forces co-ordinated by the Coast Guard, including the authorities and citizens of the island "Isola del Giglio", who have been involved in the rescue and assistance to guests and crew members. The company will fully co-operate with the relevant Authorities in order to determine the causes of what happened.

Time 1.00 am (CET)

Costa Cruises confirms the evacuation of about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board of the Costa Concordia. An incident occured near the island 'Isola del Giglio' of the coast of Italy . The evacuation started promptly, but the position of the ship has worsened, making it more complicated to complete the last part of the evacuation. At this moment, the cause of the incident cannot yet be confirmed. The Company is currently working with the highest commitment to provide all the needed assistance. The Costa Concordia was sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia with scheduled calls to Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo. About 1.000 passengers of Italian nationality were onboard, as well as more of 500 Germans, about 160 French and about 1.000 crew members.

The Guests had to embark today in Savona and in subsequent ports will be contacted directly by Costa Cruises.

  • Costa Concordia

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The Wrecked Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Is Finally Being Towed Away

The ship’s remains will be broken down for scrap metal

Rachel Nuwer

Rachel Nuwer

costa

The MS Costa Concordia , the Italian cruise ship that killed 32 people when it sank off the coast off Isola del Giglio in 2012, has just been sitting off the Tuscan coast ever since. This morning, though, the ship was successfully refloated, the Guardian reports . Environmentalists are relieved since the ship has been marring a marine sanctuary for more than two years, while local residents say they are looking forward to no longer having to see a giant wreck each time they look out to sea. 

Removing the ship entirely, however, will be no easy task. For starters, it's twice as big as the RMS Titanic , the Guardian  points out. So far, however, the plan seems to be working: 

Air was pumped slowly into 30 tanks or "sponsons" attached to both sides of the 290-metre, 114,500-tonne Concordia to expel the water inside, raising it two metres (6.5 feet) off the artificial platform it has rested on since it was righted in September. It will now be towed away from the shore and moored using anchors and cables. Thirty-six steel cables and 56 chains will hold the sponsons in place.

There are going to be substantial risks before the Costa Concordia is gone for good ,  however. As CNN writes , the ship's rotting hull could break off as it is jostled about, which would cause lengthy delays. Or, it could just fall apart entirely. "The worst case scenario is that the ship falls apart during the first six hours as it's raised off the platform -- or that it breaks up somewhere off the coast of Corsica, which is where the Mediterranean's currents are the strongest," CNN continues. Some environmental groups, like Greenpeace, are also concerned that the Costa Concordia will leave a trail of leaky toxic waste in its wake, CNN adds. 

The Costa Concordia 's planned final destination is Genoa, Italy, where it will be broken down into scrap metal. Experts estimate that that process could take as long as two-and-a-half years, CNN writes. 

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Rachel Nuwer

Rachel Nuwer | | READ MORE

Rachel Nuwer is a freelance science writer based in Brooklyn.

sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 2

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 3

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 4

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 5

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 6

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 7

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 8

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 9

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 10

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Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Part 11

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Emily Lau 'Sanctus'

On the luxury ship Costa Concordia, a dancer pursuing her dream career, a triathlete, newlyweds and second-honeymooners, all end up in a struggle to survive when the ship runs aground off the Italian coast. March 2, 2015

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IMAGES

  1. The Sinking of Concordia Caught on Camera

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  2. Costa Concordia sinking leaves cruise ship passengers alarmed

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  3. Haunting interior of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia ship

    sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

  4. Haunting interior of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia ship

    sinking of cruise ship costa concordia

  5. A look back at the Costa Concordia disaster after 10 years

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  6. Five Convicted In Deadly Costa Concordia Shipwreck : The Two-Way : NPR

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VIDEO

  1. Captain Schettino Abandons Ship Video

  2. Incredible drone video of Costa Concordia

  3. Cruise ship Costa Concordia italy almost sinking running aground

  4. Cruise ship Costa Concordia sinking off Italy 13 jan 2012

  5. Costa Concordia explosion: Rescuers blow hole in ship's deck

  6. Students Rescued On the High Seas After Concordia Sailing Ship Sinks

COMMENTS

  1. Costa Concordia disaster

    MS Costa Concordia in Palma, Majorca, in 2011. Costa Concordia (call sign: IBHD, IMO number: 9320544, MMSI number: 247158500), with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew members on board, was sailing off Isola del Giglio on the night of 13 January 2012, having begun a planned seven-day cruise from Civitavecchia, Lazio, Italy, to Savona and five other ports. The port side of the ship struck a reef at ...

  2. Costa Concordia disaster

    Costa Concordia disaster, the capsizing of an Italian cruise ship on January 13, 2012, after it struck rocks off the coast of Giglio Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.More than 4,200 people were rescued, though 32 people died in the disaster.Several of the ship's crew, notably Capt. Francesco Schettino, were charged with various crimes.. Construction and maiden voyage

  3. The Costa Concordia Disaster: How Human Error Made It Worse

    Former captain of the Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino speaks with reporters after being aboard the ship with the team of experts inspecting the wreck on February 27, 2014 in Isola del Giglio ...

  4. Survivor recounts Costa Concordia cruise capsizing 10 years later

    0:00. 1:35. GIGLIO, Italy — Ten years have passed since the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio. But for the passengers on board and the ...

  5. Ten years on, Costa Concordia shipwreck still haunts survivors

    She is one of the survivors of the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia, the luxury cruise liner that capsized after hitting rocks just off the coast of the small Italian island of Giglio on Jan. 13 ...

  6. 10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster haunts survivors

    10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster is still vivid for survivors. The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lies on its starboard side after running aground off the coast of the Isola del Giglio ...

  7. Costa Concordia Victims' Last Moments Revealed

    Victims of the Costa Concordia disaster. The 70-metre gash allowed water to pour in and the ship eventually capsized and came to rest on its side at a location known as Seagull Point, just outside ...

  8. 10 years later, Costa Concordia survivors share their stories from

    The sinking of the Costa Concordia: 10 years later. Ten years after the deadly Costa Concordia cruise line disaster in Italy, survivors still vividly remember scenes of chaos they say were like ...

  9. Costa Concordia

    Costa Concordia (Italian pronunciation: [ˈkɔsta konˈkɔrdja]) was a cruise ship operated by Costa Crociere.She was the first of her class, followed by sister ships Costa Serena, Costa Pacifica, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa, and Carnival Splendor built for Carnival Cruise Line.When the 114,137-ton Costa Concordia and her sister ships entered service, they were among the largest ships ...

  10. Key dates in Costa Concordia shipwreck, trial and cleanup

    2 of 12 | . FILE— The grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen through a window on the Isola del Giglio island, Italy, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died but also the extraordinary response by the residents of Giglio who took in the 4,200 passengers ...

  11. BBC News

    The Costa Concordia left the Italian port of Civitavecchia at 19:18 local time (18:18 GMT).. The ship was heading out on a week-long cruise around the Mediterranean with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 ...

  12. Costa Concordia: How cruise ship tragedy transformed an island ...

    The Costa Concordia disaster —. The refloated wreck of the Costa Concordia is towed to the Italian port of Genoa on Sunday, July 27, to be scrapped, ending the ship's final journey two and a ...

  13. Costa Concordia: What You Need to Know

    Oct 31, 2019. Read time. 3 min read. On January 13, 2012, Costa Concordia hit a rock off the coast of Giglio, an island on Italy's Tuscan coast. Several hours later, the ship capsized, claiming ...

  14. How the Wreck of the Costa Concordia Changed an Italian Island

    How the Wreck of a Cruise Liner Changed an Italian Island. Ten years ago the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio, killing 32 people and entwining the lives of others ...

  15. The Costa Concordia Sinking: Inside the Epic Fight for Survival

    The Concordia first sailed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, from a Genoese shipyard, in 2005; at the time it was Italy's largest cruise ship. When it was christened, the champagne bottle had failed to ...

  16. Costa Concordia is gone, but horror lingers 10 years later

    FILE— Oil removal ships near the cruise ship Costa Concordia leaning on its side Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, after running aground near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, last Friday night. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died ...

  17. Costa Concordia cruise ship sinking: Striking photographs of tragedy in

    Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio island. Rescuers were painstakingly checking thousands of cabins on the Italian liner for 16 people still ...

  18. The Story Of The Costa Concordia

    On the evening of January 13th, 2012, the cruise industry was forever changed after the modern, family cruise ship, the Costa Concordia collided with rocks a...

  19. Inside the Rotting Wreck of the Costa Concordia

    The 2012 Costa Concordia shipwreck is the most famous maritime disaster of the 21st century. In January of that year, the cruise ship struck a rock off the Mediterranean island of Isola del Giglio ...

  20. 10 years later, Costa Concordia disaster vivid for survivors

    FILE— Oil removal ships near the cruise ship Costa Concordia leaning on its side Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, after running aground near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, last Friday night. Italy on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, is marking the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster with a daylong commemoration, honoring the 32 people who died ...

  21. Costa Cruises statements on the Concordia ship disaster

    Time 1.00 am (CET) Costa Cruises confirms the evacuation of about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board of the Costa Concordia. An incident occured near the island 'Isola del Giglio' of ...

  22. The Sinking Of The Costa Concordia: 10 Years Later

    Ten years after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the tiny Italian island of Giglio, survivors are sharing new details of one of the worst maritime disaste...

  23. The Deadly Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Disaster

    On 13 January 2012, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia struck an underwater rock, capsized after it struck rocks off the coast of Giglio Island in the T...

  24. The Wrecked Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Is Finally Being Towed Away

    The MS Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that killed 32 people when it sank off the coast off Isola del Giglio in 2012, has just been sitting off the Tuscan coast ever since.This morning ...

  25. Escape: The Wreck of the Costa Concordia

    On the luxury ship Costa Concordia, a dancer pursuing her dream career, a triathlete, newlyweds and second-honeymooners, all end up in a struggle to survive when the ship runs aground off the ...