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Firms to File Against Costa Cruises

Firms to File Against Costa Cruises Vincenzo Pinto / AFP-Getty Images

On behalf of wrecked vessels’ passengers.

Two U.S. law firms and Italy’s consumer association said Friday they plan on suing Costa Cruises on behalf of the 4,200 passengers aboard the wrecked Costa Concordia. They are seeking $160,000 in damages for each passenger. An attorney representing one of the firms said the case would seek compensation from Costa Cruises for medical care and psychological suffering that resulted from the accident and subsequent evacuation.  Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Group, a U.S. company, has criticized the ship’s captain for what it called “grave errors of judgment” leading up to the accident.

Read it at BBC


Last Hope for Concordia’s Missing

Salvagers stand ready to siphon 500,000 gallons of fuel from the Costa Concordia as the crippled ship teeters toward environmental disaster. But families of the 24 missing are pleading for more time.

Emergency officials managing the wreck of the Costa Concordia on Friday afternoon were facing one of their most difficult decisions since the giant cruiseliner capsized after hitting a rocky reef off the tiny island of Giglio.

Costa Concordia

In this undated photo released by Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police) Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, Carabinieri scuba divers swim close to the Costa Concordia cruise ship, off the tiny Giglio island, Italy. (Carabinieri / AP Photo)

Twenty-four passengers are still missing, and rescue workers are still conducting what they consider a search and rescue operation. But environmental groups are putting increasing pressure on them to call off the search and move on to a recovery mission. Such a move would pave the way for the SMIT Salvage company from Rotterdam to start securing the ship and siphoning the 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel from its tanks.

SMIT has set up an impressive worksite on the tiny island off the coast of Tuscany, with boats, cranes, and dozens of workers on the scene. A representative of the company said the salvage operation could begin at any time but that the rescue officials on Giglio prefer to wait until the search for survivors has been officially suspended.


Costa Concordia Rescue Halted Again

Costa Concordia Rescue Halted Again Laura Lezza / Getty Images

Due to weather conditions.

There are still 21 people missing from the sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia in Italy, but hopes of finding them alive are fading fast after rescue operations were suspended Friday for the third time. Rescuers fear that the ship could slip into deeper water amid choppy waters and worsening weather conditions. At least 11 people have been confirmed dead after the ocean liner ran aground off Italy's coast a week ago with about 4,200 people on board.

Read it at BBC


Italy’s Other Cruise Ship Disaster

The tragedy of the Costa Concordia cruise ship has highlighted the threat these huge ships pose to the fragile city of Venice.

Some of my fellow Venetians have a surreal dream: to erect a monument in our beautiful city to Captain Francesco Stecchino, who managed to sink the Costa Concordia off Giglio island last Friday. Strange though it may seem, we owe Stecchino a lot. Because it is only thanks to the Costa Concordia catastrophe that the Italian authorities and the Italian media have suddenly discovered that monster cruise ships are passing through the center of Venice every day. Venice is a harbor built for sailing ships in the age of the Crusades; giant cruise liners just don’t fit. They’re a menace to our fragile city’s unique historical heritage and the equally delicate environment of the Venetian Lagoon.


The partially submerged Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen off the west coast of Italy at the Tuscan island of Giglio, Jan. 17, 2012. (Wang Yunjia, Xinhua / Landov)

Until last Friday only the foreign media, some improvised groups of concerned Venetians and a handful of environmentalists had raised the alarm. Now, with images of the giant Costa Concordia wallowing on its side, with its cargo of dead passengers, dominating the airwaves, the whole world has finally woken to the dangers posed by these floating multi-story hotels.

The mega-cruisers began coming to Venice around the year 2000. The length of the ships coming to the city grew from 250 to 300 yards - the length of the Costa Concordia—and now the latest generation of ships is well over 300 yards. Their height dwarfs most of the Venetian bell-towers; when they’re in port they block a large section of the horizon and are visible over the rooftops. The amount of passengers carried by these ships to Venice has increased exponentially from 500,000 in the year 2000 to two million in 2011. Sometimes one can see up to a dozen mega-ships moored at the same time in Venice. They are not only confined to the harbor—they dock in front of the medieval houses near the gardens of the Biennale so that, looking from a distance, it is hard to distinguish if the ship is docked to the city or if it is Venice that is floating and attached to the ship.

A passenger from the Costa Concordia supplied a photo of a blonde companion with Francesco Schettino in the lifeboat he supposedly fell into, after they were seen earlier on the bridge and drinking at dinner.

As if the world doesn’t already have enough solid information to form a fairly negative opinion of Capt. Francesco Schettino of the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship, now lying on its side on the Tuscan coast—now there is more.

Francesco Schettino

Capt. Francesco Schettino of cruise ship Costa Concordia is arrested Tuesday (Reuters TV / Landov)

On Thursday, after a day of relatively slow news thanks to stormy seas that halted rescue operations, the Italian press instead brought to the surface a photo garnered from a passenger aboard the Concordia of an unidentified and very young Moldavian woman at Schettino’s side in the very lifeboat he allegedly fell into while attempting to rescue his passengers and crew. Turns out, the mystery woman was no real surprise. She had been mentioned in the British tabloids when one passenger told an Italian newspaper that Schettino had been drinking with an attractive blonde at 8:35 the night of the accident. She had also been mentioned in the preliminary investigation into the accident when several of Schettino’s officers told investigators that the same young woman was on the bridge at the moment the Concordia hit the rocks that later sunk it. She was later identified as 25-year-old Domnica Cermortan, who had worked as a hostess on the ship during the summer. She was not on the passenger list, but was instead a guest of Schettino's. 

Now the young Moldavian, who holds a Romanian passport and lives in Bucharest, is a “super witness” in the case. She scampered back to Moldavia just hours after the incident, avoiding authorities who were trying to log all survivors. Just as her picture went viral, she gave a brief interview on Moldavian television in which she lauded her captain’s bravery and skill at the helm. But prosecutors in Italy say they are now interested in questioning her more intensely. Chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio declined to confirm whether she would be subpoenaed in the case, but her name has already appeared in the court register in Grosseto, where this case will be heard. She would be a “super witness,” one investigator told The Daily Beast, because she was an outsider present at the moment of the accident. She could shed valuable light on what really happened on the bridge that night.

As the Costa Concordia sinks deeper into the Mediterranean, the controversy swirling around Capt. Francesco Schettino is heating up. Barbie Latza Nadeau on the perma-tanned womanizer—and the charges he faces.

Francesco Schettino fits a stereotype that makes most Italians cringe. In photos circulating around the Internet, the Costa Concordia captain’s shirt seems permanently unbuttoned to reveal a tuft of what looks like groomed chest hair. His skin is deeply tanned, à la Silvio Berlusconi, and his long curly mane is slicked back in a mullet that is meant to look suave. He has a reputation as an egomaniac who doesn’t budge from his beliefs. And he is a daredevil who likes to take risks. “He drives a ship like a Ferrari,” Martino Pellegrino, a crew member, told reporters near the crash site. “He was reckless.”

But it wasn’t Schettino’s navigational skills that got him into the trouble he’s in today but his deplorable actions after the Concordia hit an outcropping of rocks. He admits to the fatal error, saying he misjudged the distance when he diverted the massive cruiser more than two miles from her authorized route to do a “flyby” near the island of Giglio, where retired captain Mario Palombo was expecting a flash of light and a sounding of the Concordia’s horn. All across the island, residents describe these maritime greetings as a normal practice. Indeed, they take place from Sorrento to Venice with disturbing frequency.

Schettino, 52, was born in the Mafia enclave of Castellammare di Stabia, south of Naples. His parents were sailors and he followed the same course as many of his contemporaries, attending the nearby naval academy in Piano di Sorrento and eventually finding work on a tourist boat. After putting in his time cruising super-yachts around the Mediterranean Sea, he landed a job at Costa Crociere as head of security in 2002 and then was promoted to captain four years later. In his five years at the helm of the Costa Concordia, he earned a reputation not only for his womanizing, but also for his insubordination. Just a month earlier, he allegedly left the port of Marseilles in 60 knot winds against the port authority’s orders.

When the Concordia skimmed the rocky reef Friday, lodging a giant boulder into her hull, Schettino made his second mistake. Several passengers told The Daily Beast they felt a “shuffling sound” as the electricity went out. Some passengers even called the emergency services on the mainland. But Schettino seemed in denial.


Shipwreck Capt.: I Fell Into Lifeboat

Shipwreck Capt.: I Fell Into Lifeboat Giacomo Aprili / AP Photo

Faces charges of manslaughter.

Francesco Schettino, captain of of the Costa Concordia, told an Italian judge on Tuesday that he “tripped and ended up in one of the lifeboats,” according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “I didn’t even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers,” Schettino reportedly told the judge. “I was trying to get people onto the boats in an orderly fashion.” Schettino did admit responsibility for crashing the ship into the rocks, saying he “made a mistake of the approach” of the coastline. He also confirmed he had sailed close to the island of Giglio to salute a retired captain, Mario Palombo, and was on the phone with Palombo at the time of the accident. Schettino said he would take a drug test, since “I don’t do drugs and I had not been drunk.” By grounding the vessel close to shore, Schettino said he believed he had saved many lives.

Read it at Guardian


5 More Bodies Found in Shipwreck

5 More Bodies Found in Shipwreck Enzo Russo / AP Photo

Audio released of captain begging not to return to ship.

Another five bodies were found Tuesday morning aboard the sunken Costa Concordia, bringing the official death toll up to 11. Divers found the bodies while the Italian Navy blasted holes in the hull of the partially submerged cruise ship in a desperate attempt to find any survivors before a storm reaches it. Meanwhile, Italian newspapers reported that according to a transcript of the radio on the ship and a telephone conversation with ship Capt. Francesco Schettino and the Coast Guard, Schettino pleaded not to return to the ship. The officer reportedly told Schettino, “It is an order. Don’t make any more excuses,” when Schettino said everything aboard was “all OK.” An Italian judge has placed Schettino on house arrest, allowing him to leave jail on Tuesday.

Read it at Telegraph

Smoking Gun

'Get on Board, Damn It!'

Tape recordings show that Francesco Schettino left the Costa Concordia before all the passengers were off and then pleaded with the port authority not to send him back on the ship.

“Listen, Schettino, there are people trapped on board. Now you have to go with your lifeboat and go under the boat stern on the straight side. There is a ladder there. Get on board the ship and tell me, you tell me how many people there are. Is that clear? I’m recording this conversation, captain.”

Those were the chilling words caught on tape between Gregorio De Falco, the commander of Livorno’s Port Authority and Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia, just after midnight Friday, Jan. 13 as the 4,200 passengers and crew scrambled off the listing ship. Corriere della Sera newspaper posted the chilling voice recording on its website

The conversation is a disturbing glimpse into the level of alleged negligence displayed by the captain of the Costa Concordia. There are 11 fatalities and at least 23 missing in the catastrophic shipwreck that appears to have been caused by Schettino’s autonomous decision to deviate from the ship’s authorized route and instead skirt the tiny tourist island of Giglio to do a maritime “fly by” to a friend of the ship’s head waiter. The ship then hit a rocky reef that left one giant boulder lodged in its hull before listing and turning around to rest on the shallow shores of Giglio. Passengers told The Daily Beast that it took at least an hour before the ship was evacuated, and by then it was listing at least 20 degrees off center. The captain then allegedly got off the ship.

When De Falco asked him why he left his post on the ship’s bridge, Schettino’s voice quivers and he replies, “Commander, at this moment the ship is tilting.”

Rescuers in Italy are rushing to search as much of the sunken vessel before a looming storm with high winds and six-foot waves can carry it out to sea or break it up and cause an environmental disaster.

Four days after the tragic shipwreck of the luxury liner Costa Concordia that killed six passengers and crew members, authorities are still not sure how many people were aboard the ill-fated ship when it crashed into a rocky outcropping off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Italy Cruise Aground

An oil removal ship 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 (Gregorio Borgia / AP Photo)

By late Tuesday night, the Italian Coast Guard had settled on a new number—29 missing, nearly double the original figure. The discrepancy came when an attaché at the German Embassy in Rome started hinting that there are still as many as 12 German passengers missing that no one seemed to know about. The American Embassy in Rome also confirmed that Minnesota retirees Jerry and Beth Heil are among the missing, and have posted a picture of the couple on their Facebook page.

As officials with the cruise line and Italian authorities continue to wrangle over the passenger list, rescuers off Giglio are now racing against the clock to search as much of the sunken vessel as possible before a sea storm hits later this week. Meteorologists predict that by Thursday six-foot waves and high winds will arrive, and authorities worry they may dislodge the Costa Concordia from the rocks and carry it out to sea or cause the ship to break up, releasing up to 500,000 gallons of fuel into the Mediterranean Sea.


Cruise Missing Toll Spikes

Cruise Missing Toll Spikes AP Photo

Minnesota couple missing in shipwreck.

A Minnesota couple is missing from the Costa Concordia shipwreck disaster, and the U.S. Embassy in Italy has requested help in locating them. Jerry Heil, 69, and his wife, Barbara, 70, have not been accounted for, and State Department officials are working with the Costa cruise line and Italian authorities to get more information. The embassy has posted photos of them on its Facebook page. The ship ran aground late Friday, and so far six people have been confirmed dead. The Italian Coast Guard said the number of people missing has risen to 29.

Read it at Fox News


Costa Concordia Captain Was Drinking: Report

Costa Concordia Captain Was Drinking: Report Filippo Monteforte / AFP / Getty Images

At the bar with a woman, just before liner ran aground.

If this is true, his newfound status as “Italy’s most hated man” is understandable. Passengers say Francesco Schettino, the captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, was drinking at the bar with a “beautiful woman” shortly before his ship hit a rocky crag close to the shores of the Italian island of Giglio, according to The Daily Mail. Italian prosecutors also claim Schettino was steering the ship near the rocky shore to send a greeting signal to someone on the island, though they say it had apparently become a tradition to do so. According to the Telegraph, there are reports that the ship’s officers had a friend on shore they wanted to salute.

Read it at The Daily Mail


What Went Wrong

As rescue efforts hit trouble, Barbie Latza Nadeau reports on the final moments of the cruise ship that went down off Italy’s coast, the captain's fishy story—and looming oil-spill fears.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m. ET: The U.S. Embassy in Rome has posted photos and names of the missing Americans, Jerry and Barbara Heil of Minnesota.

Rescue efforts aboard the sunken Costa Concordia luxury cruise liner off the coast of Tuscany were halted Monday morning when rough seas caused the ship to shift, endangering divers and rescue workers who have been searching around the clock for survivors. Hours before operations were suspended, a male victim was found in an above-water section of the ship with his lifejacket on, bringing the number of fatalities from the Friday the 13th maritime disaster up to six. Three survivors have been rescued since the ship was evacuated in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Italy Cruise Aground

Francesco Schettino, captain of the luxury cruiser Costa Concordia, which ran aground off Italy's Tuscan coast, enters a carabinieri car in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy. (Enzo Russo / AP Photo)

In Genoa, Pierluigi Foschi, president of the Costa Crociere cruise line, held a press conference in which he blamed Capt. Francesco Schettino, 52, for “deviating from the authorized route” and taking matters into his own hands. He reserved judgment on the captain’s action until the company has access to the ship’s black box to study the evidence—but he conceded that “it may well be grave human error.” 


Sixth Body Found in Shipwreck

Sixth Body Found in Shipwreck AP Photo

Cruise line blames 'significant human error.'

Italian news reported Monday that a sixth body had been found in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, leaving 14 people still missing.Costa Cruises, the owner of the Costa Concordia, said Sunday that it's likely that "significant human error" caused the deadly shipwreck. 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." Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino spoke on Italian television Sunday to defend his reaction in the deadly shipwreck—and he insisted none of the rocks had been detected. Meanwhile, some passengers said Sunday that Schettino was drinking in the bar the night before taking control of the crash. Schettino and the ship’s first mate have been charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Read it at MSNBC


Italy Searches for Survivors

Two days after the shipwreck, five are confirmed dead and 17 are unaccounted for—reportedly including two Americans. From Tuscany, tales of chaos, despair, and a dramatic rescue.

Sunday was a bittersweet day for rescue workers searching for missing passengers from the Costa Concordia  shipwreck that sent more than 4,000 cruise passengers into a hellish panic on Friday the 13th. Italy’s elite alpine rescue workers scaled the sides of the vessel looking in cabin windows for survivors as experienced divers from the Italian Coast Guard searched the sunken hull of the massive ship below.  Another set of rescue workers searching the main cabin areas with flashlights and listening devices scoured the ship for any sign of life.


Passengers are still missing after a massive cruise ship went aground off the shore of an Italian island. (Remo Casilli / AP Photo)

The ship had left the port of Civitivecchia just hours before it ran aground off the tiny Tuscan tourist island of Giglio about 18 miles from the Italian mainland.  Three bodies were recovered from the sea Friday night and nearly 70 passengers were unaccounted for at nightfall on Saturday, though many of those names were crossed off the missing list by Sunday morning as passengers made contact with authorities.

Early Sunday morning, rescuers celebrated the seemingly miraculous rescue of a honeymooning couple from South Korea who were discovered trapped inside their cabin.  Later in the morning, a helicopter team pulled the ship’s Italian purser, who had collapsed under the effects of hypothermia in the ship’s main dining area, to safety in a dramatic rescue.  But the day ended on a sad note when rescuers discovered the bodies of two elderly men—one Italian and one Spanish —who were found dead, lifejackets still strapped on.  They were presumed to have been waiting for wheelchair help near the muster station designated for the disabled, according to Italian Coast Guard members who conducted the recovery efforts.