MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The chief executive of Costa Crociere has blamed “human error” on the part of the captain for the grounding of the Costa Concordia off Tuscany on Friday.
Early Monday morning another body was found; sixteen people remain unaccounted-for including a couple from Minnesota.
Costa chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said Monday the company’s main concern was the safety and well-being of the passengers and crew, as well as to ensure fuel doesn’t leak out from the upended hull into the pristine waters off the island of Giglio.
The company which operates the Costa Concordia, Costa Cruise Lines, has its U.S. head office in Hollywood, Florida. Costa Cruise Lines is owned by Doral-based Carnival Corp, the eight largest non-government employer in Miami-Dade.
On Saturday, Carnival officials said 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 Saturday.
Passengers said they had just sat down to dinner when they heard a loud bang.
Aventura couple David and Denise Saba were honeymooning on the cruise ship. 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 said 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.
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 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.
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.
Over the weekend Captain Francesco Schettino claimed the rock that tore open his ship was not marked on his charts and that he was not too close to shore.
“We were about 300 meters from shore, more or less,” Schettino said. “We should not have had this contact.”
A French couple who boarded the Concordia in Marseille, Ophelie Gondelle and David Du Pays, told the Associated Press they saw the captain in a lifeboat, covered by a blanket, well before all the passengers were off the ship.
“The commander left before and was on the dock before everyone was off,” said Gondelle, 28, a French military officer.
Authorities are holding Schettino for investigation of suspected manslaughter and abandoning his ship among other possible charges. According to the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.