MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The search continues for more survivors of a Costa Cruise Lines luxury liner which partially sank after hitting a submerged rock off the island of Giglio, Italy.
On Saturday, the Italian Coast Guard said its divers found the bodies of the two elderly people were found in a submerged restaurant of the Costa Concordia. Three survivors were rescued from the hulk of a luxury liner Costa Concordia.
Carnival Corp. said on January 13 Costa Cruises’ vessel, the Costa Concordia, departed from Civitavecchia, Italy with approximately 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on a seven-day voyage.
“At approximately 10:00pm CET, the vessel struck rock off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy and sustained significant damage causing the ship to list severely. The order was given to abandon ship and deploy the lifeboats,” the company said in statement released Saturday afternoon. “This is a terrible tragedy and we are deeply saddened.”
Passengers had just sat down to dinner when they heard a loud bang. The impact tore a 160-foot gash in the hull, and an eight-day Mediterranean cruise turned into what some passengers described as “scenes from the movie ‘Titanic’.”
Aventura couple David and Denise Saba were honeymooning on the cruise ship. They had to rush to get on board and say they were the last to step onto the ship. Now wish they had missed it.
They say they were in a dining room, and felt the crash.
“I asked about five different crew members if I needed to get my life vest, and they all laughed at me they said ‘No, everything is fine. Please don’t worry about that.’ And I said do you think we’re going to have to get off the ship and they said ‘no everything is fine please don’t worry,’” recalled Denise Saba.
Two hours later the crew was telling a different story. They say everyone started rushing onto the lifeboats.
“Some people could’ve fallen into the sea because everybody was pushing. Everybody wanted to get on the boat, it was horrible,” said Saba.
She said other passengers lowered their boat into the water because the crew members had vanished.
“One side came off and we all went down to one side and of course everybody was screaming, and then the other side came off, and suddenly it was like a big fall, I was scared, I thought the boat was going to tip over, and we were all going to drown inside the boat.,” said Saba.
“I was very scared, super scared, with my husband we were not able to find a raft to leave, we actually got into one and they told us that we had to get down because it was not going down so we had to jump from the raft to the boat and start running around and see where we could find another one because all of them were full,” said Karen Camacho from Miami.
Passengers described the scene as chaotic and complained the crew failed to give instructions on how to evacuate and once the emergency became clear, delayed lowering the lifeboats until the ship was listing too heavily for many of them to be released.
“I was crying, I was terrified and I was telling my husband were going to die here and somebody told us or my husband said we have to get on this boat because we are not going to die, so they opened the gates and we were able to get on that boat but then it would not go down. So we had to jump because it was already sideways and then we were running around because we were trying to see what we were going to do,” said Camacho. “My husband and I were running through the dining room where we had dinner when everything started and I was slipping all over because there was glass all over and I hurt my arm, finger, whatever and then we jumped into the lifeboat.”
“When the boat was tilted up and we a were jumping into the raft, I said man this is happening for real, we were not prepared at all, they didn’t even evacuate,” said Luis Hernandez from Miami. “I don’t know, the raft was full of people and they were not coming down I don’t know why they were waiting.”
Helicopters plucked to safety some people who were trapped on the ship, some survivors were rescued by boats in the area, and witnesses said some people jumped from the ship into the dark, cold sea.
The American Embassy in Rome now says 118 of the 120 Americans aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship have been accounted for, but a Minnesota couple is still missing. Six crewmen and nine passengers are still missing.
Firefighters with dogs and divers continued searching the 1,000-foot-long ship on Sunday, which was listing almost 90 degrees and cluttered with toppled furniture above the waterline and floating curtains, carpets and debris below.
Also on Sunday, Costa Cruise Lines released a statement which said “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.”
The statement went on to say “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 in handling the emergency the captain appears not to have followed standard Costa procedures. We are aware that the lead Prosecutor has leveled serious accusations against the ship’s captain, who joined Costa Crociere in 2002 as a safety officer and was appointed captain in 2006.”
Italian prosecutors have confirmed they are investigating the captain for manslaughter charges and abandoning the ship.
The company which operates the Costa Concordia, Costa Cruise Lines, has its U.S. head office in Hollywood, Florida. Notably, Costa Cruise Lines is owned by Doral-based Carnival Corp.
Carnival Corp. is the eight largest non-government employer in Miami-Dade.