Accident at Costa Concordia ten years ago

The cruise ship “Costa Concordia” in June 2012 five months after running aground off the Italian island of Giglio (picture alliance / ROPI)

Shortly after departure, most of the 3,200 passengers went to the restaurants below deck for dinner. It is the evening of January 13, 2012. The “Costa Concordia” sails from Civitavecchia, the small port town near Rome, in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The ship is the pride of its shipping company Costa Crociere: Designed by an American designer, the decks are in the colors of the European countries from which they bear the name. In its womb is the largest wellness area that has ever existed on a cruise ship until then. At around 9.45 p.m., the passengers suddenly felt a strong bump. Dining rooms darken and chaos erupts. Loudspeaker announcements soothe those on board in five languages:

“We are currently out of power due to technical issues. There is no need to panic. Please stay calm. Our technicians are working to resolve the issue.”

The captain wants to offer a beautiful photo against the background of an island

The “Costa Concordia” has just passed the small island of Giglio – in, as eyewitnesses later testify, the frightening proximity to the coast. In court, experts will suspect that this was done with full intent and for publicity purposes, in order to create a particularly beautiful image of the ship against the backdrop of the island. This practice has its own name in Italy, the “bow”. For captain Francesco Schettino, 51, it’s actually a routine. Today, however, it crashed into a boulder which tore the ship to a length of 70 meters. Instead of letting passengers, some of whom are already wearing life jackets, immediately get into the lifeboats, he soothes them – and sends them back to their cabins. One of them is Gerd Hammer from Königswinter:

“Well, what I found really catastrophic was that the captain let it go for a long time, in five languages: we have a technical problem. But we have everything under control. “

Engine noises and screams

The “Costa Concordia” is now heading for the island. According to Schettino’s version, on purpose in order to be able to evacuate better. The experts oppose it: the wind and the current, unable to navigate, would have pushed it towards the island. Fabio Bernardini, inhabitant of the island of Giglio, observed the disaster there. As he later reported, he heard the engine noises – “and the screaming, and there was also a power failure. Only the emergency lights were on.”

The vessel is increasingly listed

That night, Bernardini picked up 30 castaways and entertained them in his kitchen. Shortly after 10 p.m., the captain of the port of Livorno learned of the accident and wanted to get an idea by radio: the Costa Concordia only reported a power failure. In fact, soon after, the ship landed on the island’s coastal pedestal and became increasingly popular. The horn does not sound until around 10:30 p.m.: the evacuation is finally carried out under the most difficult conditions, explains Gerd Hammer:

“You had to walk on the side wall. I had the floor as a wall on the right. The roof of the terrace on the left as a wall. And over the railing.”

It took two hours to get enough helicopters and support boats on site. About 200 passengers had jumped from the edge while the ship was still afloat and swam towards the island. About 150 others were later rescued from the sea by helpers. Gregorio de Falco, naval officer in the port of Livorno, was in charge of the operation. He was shocked to learn that there had already been deaths – but that the captain had disembarked a long time ago. He radioed Schettino – who said he wanted to coordinate the rescue operation from the island.

De Falco: “Listen, Schettino, get on the lifeboat and get back on board! There are kids, get on board, fuck it.”
Schettino: “Commander, please.”

De Falco: “You refuse? Come in, it’s an order, you’ve left the boat. “

Former cruise ship captain crashed "Costa concordia" talks to reporters in Giglio.

The former captain of the crashed cruise ship “Costa Concordia” addresses reporters in Giglio. (EPA / MAURIZIO DEGL’INNOCENTI)
“Vada a bordo, cazzo!”: “Shit, get on board!” – has become a household word in Italy. Schettino had broken an age-old taboo: the captain remained on board until everyone was saved 32 people died on the island of Giglio on the night of January 13-14, 2012. Schettino was sentenced to 16 years of prison in 2015, which after several attempts at revision, he had to serve in 2017. To date, he sees himself only partially guilty and is fighting against this judgment, in the meantime before the European Court of Human Rights .

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