Articles Tagged with “Sunk Cruise Ship”

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We began reporting on the Costa Concordia as soon as the tragedy occurred on Friday, January 13th, 2012. That night, thousands of passengers lived through a collective nightmare which ended in the most blatant mishandling of an emergency aboard a large cruise ship since the Titanic. Every single passenger aboard the Costa Cruise thought they were going to die at sea. Ultimately thirty-two passengers perished that night.

Four passengers currently in litigation provided a unique insight into what passengers aboard a stranded and sinking cruise ship were thinking and experiencing. What became crystal clear is the breakdown in communication and level of negligence displayed by Costa Cruise Lines employees of all rank.

Our four passengers were traveling together as a group and thankfully escaped the sinking ship. All four owe their luck to self-reliance and the common-sense of ignoring what Costa Cruise crew members were ordering passengers to do.

At approximately 9:00 p.m., all four friends met for dinner in the fourth floor dining room, where they were seated at the lower level. Shortly after they sat down, the ship suddenly tilted to one side, knocking over some glasses and plates. Everyone, passengers and crew-members alike, was stunned, however, within a couple of minutes, the restaurant patrons were assured by the dining staff that there was no problem.

Only minutes later, the ship sharply tilted to an extreme angle, sending all of the dishes and food on their table to the floor. This scene was replayed across the entire dining room as dishes and plates went flying everywhere. The angle of the ship was so severe that even tables were sliding across the floor, bringing to their minds the movie scenes of the sinking Titanic, which was the only cruising experience three of them had at the time.

Massive panic in the dining room broke out as families and friends attempted to protect children and loved ones and to make their way to safety through the chaos without any help from the staff.

After receiving no assistance or instruction from the staff, our group of friends quickly determined that they could not rely upon the ship’s personnel and would have to take the appropriate steps to save themselves. Remembering having seen life jackets in their closets, they fought their way through the flying china, furniture and panicking passengers out of the dining room, further impaired by the severe angle of the ship, which had also caused water to flood out of the galley on to the floor. After escaping from the dining room, one of the four friends became separated in the madness from the other three, who managed to stay together until the end.

The now smaller group fought its way through the maddening crowd of screaming, running and panicked passengers. One of them, a female passenger, slid in water which flooded out of the galley, turning the polished floor in the foyer outside of the dining room into an ice rink. As she slid across the tilted foyer, she only came to a stop after bashing into a metal column in the center. After someone helped her up, she continued to run through the chaos in an effort to catch up with her two other friends.

As they continued to run toward their cabins, they were all terrified and feared that the ship was going to sink. Since none of them were good swimmers, they all were afraid that if they had to jump overboard without a life jacket, their chances of survival were poor.
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Sinking-Costa-Concordia-o-001.jpgThe Athens Convention establishes a comprehensive integrated system to govern the liability of cruise ship operators for personal injuries and property damage sustained by its passengers. It contains standards for establishing liability and permissible defenses as well as its own statute of limitations and venue provisions. The Convention was primarily motivated by a series of uninsured ferry disasters occurring in a number of underdeveloped countries.

Amid the Costa Concordia tragedy, it seems very likely that cruise passengers will have to file any lawsuits in Genoa, Italy, where the cases will be subject to Italian law. Courts in the United States have consistently upheld the choice of law clauses contained in cruise passenger tickets absent evidence that “enforcement would be unreasonable and unjust”, ” the clause was invalid for such reasons as fraud or overreaching”, or “the enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum in which the suit is brought”.

More importantly, as part of this comprehensive system, the Athens Convention allows the carrier to limit its liability for passenger personal injury or death in the absence of its reckless misconduct. The current monetary limitation in U.S. dollar is approximately $72,000. The operative words are “in the absence of [the carrier’s] reckless misconduct.” Specifically, Article 13 of the Athens Convention provides that the carrier will lose its right to limit liability where it is proven that the damage resulted from an act or omission done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result.

Can Costa Concordia Passengers prove that the carrier acted recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result and lift the carrier’s right to limit its liability?

Here are the pertinent facts that have come to light thus far:

The cruise ship deviated from its original course
According to court documents filed today in Italy, Captain Francesco Schettino admitted to a judge that he made a mistake in steering the ship too close to the Island of Giglio. Captain Schettino deviated from the ship’s programmed route and came 0.28 nautical miles (less than 600 yards) from the coast.

The cruise ship intentionally deviated from its original course
Head waiter, Antonello Tievolli, reportedly did not ask the captain to steer towards his native island, but he nonetheless told his family that he would be passing by that evening and his sister, Patrizia Tievoli, shared his whereabouts on her Facebook profile by posting the following wall post: “In a short period of time the Concordia ship will pass very close. A big greeting to my brother who finally get to have a holiday on landing in Savona”.

Captain Francesco Schettino abandoned ship
According to an audio recording, which is now part of the prosecutor’s case against Captain Schettino who is currently under house arrest and facing criminal charges for manslaughter and for abandoning ship, it is established that the ship’s captain did leave the cruise liner before all passengers were evacuated and ashore.

The cruise company confirmed ship’s deviation was not authorized
Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman of Carnival’s Italian unit, Costa Crociere confirmed at a press conference in Genoa on January 16, that the Costa Concordia ran aground at about 9:45 p.m. on January 13, within hours of leaving a port near Rome to continue a Mediterranean cruise. The ship’s route was set electronically before it left, and the cruise liner should not have been so close to Giglio Island. Foshi added “the fact that the ship strayed from that course can only be due to a maneuver that was not approved, not authorized nor communicated to Costa Crociere by the captain of the ship”.

The cruise company knew of the common practice to sail close to the Island of Giglio
It has now surfaced that it was common practice for the Costa Concordia to deviate from its original route and to sail dangerously close to Giglio Island. An amateur video footage was recently posted online showing the Costa Concordia sailing off the coast of the island, closer to the shore in August 2011 than it did on January 13.

Italian Prosecutor qualifies Captain’s Schettino’s behavior as reckless
In a recent interview to the media, Italian Prosecutor Francesco Verusio declared that “the unscrupulousness of this reckless maneuver that the commander of the Costa Concordia made near the Island of Giglio is something that is inexcusable. From the investigation we carried out straight off the incident, we are certain that the captain of the ship was on the command bridge and the control of the ship was in his hands. This risky maneuver that the captain performed sailing close to Giglio Island without due caution caused the impact that we all saw. The captain is in a very difficult position because we are sure that he abandoned the ship when many passengers were still waiting to be evacuated”.
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While investigators are looking at the black box of the cruise ship Costa Concordia that sunk off the coast of Italy, prosecutors did not waste time in gathering facts and evidence from passengers and crew members, which have led them to arrest Captain Francesco Schettino on allegations of manslaughter and for abandoning ship.

Before his arrest, Captain Schettino answered a few questions by a reporter from The Telegraph (U.K.)

Why did the ship capsize?

Italian Prosecutors with the help of Costa Crociere executives have released that, for some unknown reason, the ship deviated from its original route. While en route from Civitavecchia to Savona in Northern Italy, the ship veered off its course and navigated much too close to the coast. Within 300 meters off the coast, the ship collided with a large underwater rocky formation which perforated the hull causing significant damage and which started the capsizing of the ship.

In shallow waters, the wash from the cruise ship close to shoreline had nowhere to go and may have rebounded on the hull causing the ship to roll and capsize.

 

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Damage to the ship’s hull

On Monday, Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of Costa Crociere, the company that owns the Costa Concordia luxury cruise liner, said Captain Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from the programmed course, a “human error” that caused the ship to hit rocks near the port area of Giglio and capsize late Friday. A report from CTV News.

Since that statement was made, Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the Costa Concordia has disassociated itself from the captain’s behavior. Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest cruise line company in the world and is based out of Miami, Florida.

Captain Francesco Shettino and ship’s first mate arrested, face charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship

article-3_resize.jpgAccording to several accounts from evacuated passengers, and as was confirmed by prosecutors, evidence is mounting that the ship’s captain was evacuated ashore, safe and sound, hours before hundreds of passengers even made it to a lifeboat.

The Daily Mail reported that a French couple who boarded the ship in Marseille, Ophelie Gondelle and David Du Pays, saw the captain in a lifeboat, covered by a blanket, well before all the passengers were off the ship. They insisted on telling a reporter what they saw, so incensed that — according to them — the captain had abandoned the ship before everyone had been evacuated. You can read more about the story here
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Below is a timeline of events amid the cruise ship disaster that sunk off the coast of Italy, Isola del Giglio:

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Friday January 13, 2012

7:00 p.m.: The ship embarks on a 7-day cruise from Civitavecchia, near Rome, with 4,229 cruise passengers and crew members on board from 60 different countries.

9:15 p.m.: Ship takes a five miles detour to pass closer to the picturesque Tuscan Island of Giglio (Isla del Giglio)

9:30 p.m.: Ship strikes rocks 300 meters off the Island of Giglio. Five minutes later, the electricity goes off. many passengers begin to panic.

9:45 p.m.: The first alarm is sounded. Two long whistles and on short, informing the crew of a problem.

9:50 p.m.: The ship begins to list. In the restaurants, dinnerware falls off the tables. Some passengers rush to their cabins to put their life vests on.

10:00 p.m.: Captain Francesco Schettino tries to maneuver the vessel towards the shore.

10:10 p.m.: ‘Abandon Ship’ signal is given: Seven short whistles and one long. Lifeboats begin their deployment.

10:20 p.m.: Coastguards launch rescue boats and helicopters. Most of Giglio’s 800 residents turn out to help. Passengers jump into the chilly waters instead of boarding lifeboats. Many passengers are injured in the process, several seriously.

11:15 p.m.: The first lifeboat reaches Giglio. In all, around 4,000 people make it safely aboard a lifeboat.

11:40 p.m.: Captain Fransesco Schettino is found ashore.

Saturday January 14, 2012

Three bodies are found by rescuers, two French passengers and a Peruvian crewmember.

2:30 a.m.: Some 300 people are still aboard the sinking ship.

6:00 a.m.: Local fire chief says last survivor has been rescued from the ship, Rescuers continue their searches on the ship and underwater throughout the next two days.

3:00 p.m.: Captain Francesco Schettino detained along with his first mate on allegations of manslaughter and abandoning his ship.

Monday January 16, 2012

A sixth body is found at sea. There are 16 people still unaccounted for, including two Americans.
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