Remembering Costa Concordia tragedy - 13 January…

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Remembering Costa Concordia tragedy - 13 January 2012

All News General News Friday, 13th January 2017

5 years to the day Costa Concordia tragedy happened. The ship, carrying 4,252 people, was on the first leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia in Lazio, Italy, when she deviated from her planned route at the Isola del Giglio, coming closer to that island, and struck a rock formation on the sea floor. On 11 February 2015, after a trial of more than eighteen months, Captain Schettino was found guilty of manslaughter of 32 passengers and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a 26-year sentence, but the court gave Schettino ten years for multiple manslaughter, five years for causing the shipwreck, one year for abandoning the passengers, and one month for providing false information to port authorities.

Below is a very personal account about that day from a crew member that trained at Red Ensign a year before the disaster took place.

Costa Concordia tragedy – from a crew member point of view

13th January 2012 – Samsara Spa, deck 11-12

Silvio Marino, 32 years old – Massage Therapist on board from January 2010 waiting for a transfer to another ship

The story below is the personal version of what happened. From my point of view, a night that no one will ever forget and which will stay forever in the minds and hearts of whoever really lived it.I’m not a writer, my aim is not to be one. Maybe this is only a necessary weep after a trauma lasted one full night, or that will maybe last forever.

This does not mean to be an accuse against the PASSENGERS, main victims of the disaster, but only a report in favor of the crew members.

Civitavecchia is an embarkation port, where about 600 people are about to start a new holiday on board of the super floating city for their first time. At the Spa, on deck 11 and 12, we work all evening trying to show our wonderful health center to the majority of guests. It’s called “Spa Tour” and everyone of us puts soul and body in it, trying to book treatments and to make the cruise as relaxing as possible.

8 pm it’s dinner time, as usual waiting for the 9 pm end of cruise meeting, but tonight it will be held together with the SAFETY OFFICER. We joke about the fact that it’s Friday 13th and that that same morning in the gym someone decided to play the instrumental version of MY HEART WILL GO ON, famous soundtrack of the movie which we all know the title of. Absurd, I whisper to my housekeeping Indonesian colleague.

9 pm we start the safety TRAINING. They stress about how important safety is on board and that no one of us has ever seen anyone dying or crew members crying out of panic. For this reason, they took the decision to make us repeat all the emergency drill, i.e. those compulsory drills that serve to sum up WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF REAL ALARM, because we’re never completely ready in the end.After some scoldings and questions about extinguishers, emergency exits and escapes, etc etc, the training ends and our manager prepares the paper for the end of cruise meeting, the one about the sales of the week. We joke more and we wait.

About 9.45 pm. In the spa there’s a wonderful thalassotherapy pool, which has been the symbol of the start of the tragedy. We saw the water coming out of the pool, hit a window and then come out and “flood” part of the gym. The ship tilts for the first time. Something is wrong. At deck 11 we didn’t hear any noise. Only the tilting. We looked at each other. The fear starts spreading but the ship gets back to its normal position almost immediately and everyone calms down. We have a problem, it’s clear, but we are close to the coast. Everything is fine again.

The lights go off and the panic starts coming back. From the speaker an officer informs ON BEHALF OF THE CAPTAIN that it’s only an electrical fault, that there’s nothing to worry about, that everything would be fixed soon. The message will be repeated at least a couple of more times.

I can’t remember the times, I don’t want to remember them. For that there’s a black box. I remember a completely different thing.

I talk to my manager who “forces” us to stay together at deck 11, not to go to deck 0 where our cabins are located and to wait for further communications. God bless him

The light comes back and goes off again. Another announcement. Same announcement. Not knowing where we were located I used my Iphone to find our position and the Giglio Island appears on the screen.

Easy, guys, I say. We’re near the coast. If we had a problem, we must be getting close to the port for assistance and we will be here for several days! It’s called dry dock. A godsend from heaven for the crew. That is to say a bit of rest. We try to joke to minimize and we go to deck 12 to take a look at the outside deck. Everything seems OK. The ship seems to move slowly.

After about 1 hour and 20 minutes the coded signals start. The first one meaning “leak” and the second one (7 short blasts followed by a long one) of EMERGENCY. At this point we all are certain that something bad is about to happen.

BETWEEN THE FIRST TILTING AND THE EMERGENCY SIGNAL MORE THAN 1 HOUR HAS PASSED.

We quickly move (without running. We never run on board) towards our cabins to collect our lifejacket and then reach our Muster Station with it, as by procedure, to align the passengers and to prepare them for a possible “abandon ship”.

The passengers are already CRAMMED everywhere.

If you spend more than 1 hour, passengers – human beings like the crew, will never believe the story of the ELECTRICAL FAULT, CALM DOWN, SIT DOWN.

There’s no time to go to the cabins. We go to the Muster Station. There are two of them for passengers, A e B. Everyone has a lifejacket in their cabin with the printed letter of the Muster Station they have to reach.

Problem: the emergency drill, i.e. that drill where we explain and show EVERYONE how and where to go is done in SAVONA, that is the day after CIVITAVECCHIA. About 600 or more human beings had no clue of how to wear a lifejacket. But no worries, there were EVERYWHERE crew members showing deck 4 with their hand and showing and fixing lifejackets. They were directing people to the corridors to reach the runaways. Someone would find hard to understand because they were holding their mobile with with one hand and taking movies and the ship was starting to tilt. You can’t do many things simultaneously.

When we reached our assigned positions we found the chaos. The passengers were ready to embark but they were scattered everywhere and panic-striken. SOMEONE SMOKING, SOMEONE FILMING OR TAKING PICTURES. We tried in every way to contain the panic and comfort people in distress but, you can imagine it – but no one says it – to handle 3000 people is not the easiest thing to do. The newspapers report 4200 tourists. The tourists were about 3000, the rest were working people.

I didn’t manage to immediately reach my assigned position but when I finally did I found only 1 lifejacket available for me. As soon as I wore it, I realized that there were about 50 or 60 people queuing for a LIFERAFT, the ones meant for CREW MEMBERS. “These are not meant for you! You have to change lifeboat and go there!! But without running please” I shouted everyone. In 3 different languages. And they all understood me.

The passengers were all mingled, who was assigned to Muster Station A was in B and viceversa. They didn’t want to change position and they were refusing to change corridor. UNDERSTANDABLE. In such a situation we all would react the same way.

At an undefined time, the message of ABANDON SHIP. At that point we start to embark everyone on the lifeboats. The ship is too tilted. It’s too late to follow all the steps smoothly and safely. It’s obvious that all problems start arising, such as tilting lifeboats were lowered roughly. The priority was always for women and children, but it’s hard when there are people ready to do everything to get on board The several videos being taken are not stopping. So is not the crave to smoke a cigarette out of stress for the situation (???!!!)

Once embarked the passengers, crew members go to their liferafts. Mine is located at deck 3, left side, the one with the leak, the one that was tilting upward. We wait for some rescue in vain. The ship is too tilted. I was standing with my back against the wall and I could easily look at the stars. I really thought I would have never made it. At that point I sent a sms to my family and one message on facebook. My mobile battery was almost down, it could never hold a conversation. 2 fast messages and then end of communications.

They inform us that there’s no chance to evacuate from this side of the ship and that we need to run to the other side to manage to escape. We form a human chain with crew members and some passengers that into a panic decided to follow us. We move towards the other side of the ship.

Deck 4, Muster Station A. There was almost no one. I only remember I was close to 2 colleagues of mine and a dancer.

The water starts rising from deck 3. We figure out there is not much time left. I ask my colleague “Can you swim?”, “I believe so” she answers. 20 years old, first contract, she was wearing only her short-sleeved-uniform and she had no lifejacket. Anyone would have done what I did. I fixed my lifejacket on her and told her to hold it tight and that I would swim without problems.

The light goes off, the green water rises. The absolute silence. I jump in the water and I start swimming. My head spins, I already can’t feel my feet. After 5 seconds swimming I feel tired and exhausted. Who ever tried hypothermia knows what I am talking about. I decide to turn and rest, but what I saw changed my mind. Steel and sundeck chairs were falling from the top decks and if they would have hit me, I could have never born their weight.

I can see some lights and someone’s arms. There’s a rock. It seems to be near. I feel like days have gone by. Actually I have been swimming for 10 minutes. A guy lifts me up from the water and shouts at me to run to the highest possible point. If the ship would sink, it would take us all.

From this moment on the second part of the tragedy starts. Vomit, cold and pain. I rescue my girlfriends, we hug each other. One of them wets herself, but that’s warm so nothing is disgusting. I can’t remember who and how, but we decided to walk along the hill and reach the houses.

I will not go on. The rest has been reported by the news. Especially the readiness and the kindness of the inhabitants of the Giglio Island. We received blankets, clothes, biscuits. Whatever they could do, they did it.

I hope that my story can open many people’s eyes, especially of those passengers that – surely out of panic and anger – accused the crew.

The mistake came from top, FROM THE BRIDGE. If the abandon ship order had been given at the right time, everyone would have been saved in a safely manner. If 99% of passengers has been saved, it’s because of the on board and shore rescues. None of them would have touched the land if one of Us had not lowered a lifeboat and had not taken it ashore.

To all passengers who ACCUSE THE RESCUES I WILL SAY: When it’s time for the COMPULSORY DRILL, WHERE YOU ALL ARE BORED AND YOU WANT TO LEAVE TO YOUR CABIN TO REST OR TO DINNER AT THE CONCORDIA CLUB TO SIP YOUR WINE BECAUSE YOU ARE GOLD OR PEARL CARD OWNER, be careful! FIX YOUR LIFEJACKET, CHECK YOUR WHISTLE AND THE EMERGENCY LIGHT. Don’t take picture or movies where you make fun of the Filipino of the day or any other crew member who is moving his hands and face in a funny way.

To all passengers who ACCUSE THE CREW FOR NOT SPEAKING ITALIAN I will say that the ship hosts passengers from all over the world. The crew members speak several languages and obviously it’s not possible to expect a perfect grammar no matter what. And it seems to me that there are no communication issues when playing at the casino of for a complaint for the too warm or too cold bottle of wine. Try to be reasonable.

I repeat, this does not mean to be an accuse against the PASSENGERS, main victims of the disaster, but only a report in favor of the crew members.

I express my condolences to families and friends of the missing people, passengers and crew members.

WE LOST EVERYTHING TOO. WE WILL REMEMBER THIS TRAGEDY FOREVER, TOO. 

Silvio Marino

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