A towering hulk has been cleared away from Italy’s Giglio coast. It has been two and a half years since the Costa Concordia re-cast the seascape.
On the night of 13 January, 2012, not quite all the more than 4,200 passengers and crew managed to abandon ship.
Some came to see the wreck removed, and remember the 32 who died.
President of the French Survivors’ Group Anne Decre said: “We hope that they will quickly find Russel, because it remains a coffin, a tomb. Thirty-two people lost their lives and Russel is still missing.”
Russel Rebello was an Indian waiter working that night, when the cruise ship came in close to salute Giglio and ran aground. The impact tore 35 metres of the hull open.
Over it went, slowly, but the evacuation was disorganised, too late. People jumped into the sea. Some swam for shore. The lifeboats were chaotic.
Helmut Buttkus recalls critical moments shared with his wife: “When we got into the lifeboat, it went down along the side of the Concordia, which was already tilted. It went down until the ropes reached their limit — still two or three metres from the surface of the water. They were not long enough, so they had to be disconnected, and everything fell, sharply. I was watching the side of the ship slide, thinking ‘if the raft overturns it’s all over for us, we won’t survive.’”
The next day, passengers of 70 nationalities filled Porto Stefano, the morning after their winter luxury cruise had turned nightmare.
Spaniard Pablo Lázaro, who, with his wife and their children had gone up to the bridge of the ship, speculates it was lucky the Costa Concordia stayed on a sea shelf, with real depth so close: “If this ship — instead of stopping there — had ended up just twenty metres to the right, we’d be talking about 4,000 dead, because nobody would have survived.”
Captain Francesco Schettino claims he averted that catastrophe by bringing the giant vessel in to hug the coast after it struck. He is the only person still being tried — for manslaughter, causing the disaster through negligence and abandoning ship.
Other defendants plea bargained prison terms.
Schettino accepts partial responsibility but says others did not follow his orders.