10 years later, Costa Concorde disaster brings survivors to life

GIGLIO, Italy — It may have been a decade since the Costa Concordia cruise ship hit a reef and capsized on this Tuscan island. But for the ship’s passengers and the residents who welcomed them ashore, memories of that harrowing, chilly night are still vivid.

When the hull hit the rock for the first time, the dinner plate flew off the table. The ship’s engine room was flooded and power went out after the generator failed. The final frantic scramble was the evacuation of the listing liner, followed by the extraordinary generosity of the Giglio Islanders, who provided shoes, sweatshirts and shelter until the sun came up and the passengers were transported to the mainland.

Italy will mark the 10th anniversary of the Concordia disaster on Thursday with a one-day commemoration with a candlelight vigil near the moment the ship hit the reef: January 13, 2012 at 9:45pm. The events will honor 32 of the 4,200 survivors who died that night, as well as the residents of Giglio, who took in passengers and crew and then lived with Concordia’s body for two years until it was rectified and towed for scrap.

“For us islanders, when we remember some event, we always mention whether it was before or after Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, 23, as the dark Concordia leaned towards the shore and then fell on the pier. He is fishing at the pier. side.

“I think it’s like a nail in the wall marking that date, as before and after,” he said, recounting how he was involved in the rescue that night, helping to pull comatose, injured and frozen passengers from the lifeboats to shore .

The anniversary comes as the cruise industry, which has been shut down for months in much of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, is back in the spotlight as the COVID-19 outbreak threatens passenger safety. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned people last month not to go on cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risk of infection.

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, the COVID-19 infection is just the latest evidence that passenger safety is still not a top priority for the industry. Passengers on the Concordia were mostly alone in search of life jackets and a working lifeboat after the captain brought the boat closer to shore in a stunt. He then delayed the evacuation order until it was too late and the lifeboat could not be lowered because the boat was leaning too much.

“I always say it’s not going to define me, but you have no choice,” Ananias said in an interview from his home in Los Angeles, California. “We all suffer from PTSD. We feel guilty because we survived and 32 people died.”

Prosecutors blamed delays in evacuation orders and conflicting instructions given by crew members to the chaos caused by passengers scrambling to disembark. Captain Francesco Schettino was sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated.

Ananias and her family rejected Costa’s initial offer of $14,500 to each passenger and sued Costa, which is owned by Carnival Corporation of America, for trying to pay for medical bills and treatment for the post-traumatic stress they suffered. But after eight years in the U.S. and Italian court systems, they lost the case.

“I think people need to realize that when you’re on a cruise ship, if something goes wrong, you’re not going to get the justice that you might be used to in the country you live in,” said Ananias, who went to become the International Association of Cruise Victims ( A senior official with the International Cruise Victims Association, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety onboard ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa did not respond to an email seeking comment on the anniversary. In a statement to The Associated Press, Cruise Lines International, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, emphasized that the safety of passengers and crew is the industry’s top priority and that cruise ships remain one of the safest vacation experiences.

“Our thoughts are with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” CLIA said. It said it had been working with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry for the past 10 years, To “drive a safety culture” which is based on continuous improvement. “

For Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night are all over the place: the fear of seeing the capsized boat, the scramble to coordinate rescue services ashore, the recovery of the first bodies, and then the pride of islanders coming out to care for the survivors By.

In September 2013, Ortelli was by his side when the 115,000-ton, 300-meter (1,000-foot) liner was vertically corrected from an underwater cemetery in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, Friday the 13th, is still etched in his memory.

“It was a night that had a brighter side than tragedy, because the response was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said. This seemed natural at the time.

“But then we realized that that night, in just a few hours, we had done something incredible.”