2 Bodies Raise Death Toll to 5 in Sinking of Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia

ABC News
2 Bodies Raise Death Toll to 5 in Sinking of Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia
.

View photo

2 Bodies Raise Death Toll to 5 in Sinking of Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia (ABC News)

Scuba divers reportedly have found two more bodies on board the luxury liner that hit a reef off the Italian coast and toppled over, bringing the death toll in the disaster to five people.

The divers found the bodies in the submerged part of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia, the Italian news outlet Ansa reported.

The discovery of the bodies followed better news overnight, as three people were rescued from the ship's wreckage. A crew member of was hoisted to safety by helicopter this morning, and a honeymooning couple was rescued from their cabin overnight, as officials scrambled to locate other missing people and threatened to charge the ship's captain with manslaughter.

The Costa Concordia struck a reef and sank onto its side off of the small island of Giglio, Italy, early Saturday. The U.S. embassy in Rome said Saturday that none of the 126 Americans on board the ship are among those who were seriously injured.

The latest rescue this morning was of an Italian who worked for the ship's cabin service and was hoisted off the ship with a broken leg approximately 36 hours after the accident, according to The Associated Press. It followed the rescue of South Korean newlyweds late Saturday after screams were heard coming from their cabin.

Before the latest bodies were found today, 17 people remained unaccounted for -- 11 passengers and six crew members, Tuscany's regional president, Enrico Rossi, told reporters. The number was reduced from an earlier estimate of 40 unaccounted for.

The gleaming ship was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew when it struck rocks off Italy's west coast during the night, tearing a 160-foot long gash in the hull.

Investigators now believe the ship was dangerously close to the shore and hit a rock that the captain claims was unmarked.

The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, is now in custody, facing possible charges with manslaughter and abandoning his ship.

The incident began at approx 9:15 p.m. Friday, just as passengers were having dinner.

Passengers heard a loud bang and then a blackout. Minutes later, an announcement from the crew said it was merely an eletrical problem. But with the ship tilting, many passengers ignored their orders and scrambled to the deck.

Vacationers reported the crew did not want to lower the lifeboats. Many reported forcing their way on against orders. Some were lowered, but not everyone got on.

By 11 p.m., the ship was tilting too much to its side and many lifeboats couldn't be lowered. Many of the ship's occupants jumped in to the icy waters to make a swim for it, and at least 50 people had to be airlifted by helicopter.

Schettino was detained by authorities and questioned along with the ship's first bridge officer, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. ANSA said the captain could face criminal charges.

The agency reported that Schettino could be charged with abandoning ship since he reportedly left the stricken vessel about 12:30 a.m., while many passengers didn't get safely off the ship until 6 a.m.

There are also reports in the Italian press that Schettino took the Costa Concordia close to the harbor of Giglio island many times in the past so his passengers could take photographs.

The captain's lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, said Schettino was taken to the Grosseto jail, but argued that the captain was a hero.

"I would like to say that hundreds of people owe their life to the captain of the Costa Concordia's skill in an emergency," the lawyer said. "You have to be very good to bring a ship like this which is 117,000 tons and 300 meters long, which is sinking after a collision, close to land to allow for easy rescue so as to save so many people. I think the maneuver was brilliant from a nautical point of view."

Harrowing tales of chaos ensued for several hours as the crew and passengers tried to scramble to safety.

Cruise Ship Sinks Amid Screams, Darkness and Frantic Pushing

A passenger interviewed in the nearby port of Santo Stefano told ANSA that the pianist playing next to the restaurant while dinner was being served jumped into the sea after the ship slammed into the rock, and others followed him.

American Mark Plath, who had leaped off the ship and swam to rocks, told Sky Italia that he was woken up by loudspeakers shortly before 11 p.m. saying there was a power outage, but not to worry about it. About a half hour later, another announcement said they were still working on the power outage, but he noticed the ship was listing about 15 degrees.

When he went outside, he found about 500 people on the fourth floor deck.

"We were trying to get outside. People had children with them, people were pushing, people were yelling, people were pushing back. It was difficult to stay in control because so many people were upset," Plath said.

Lynn Kaelin of Seattle, Wash., told ABC News the ship's hallways were so crowded "We couldn't see where we were going. People were crying and screaming. No one was telling us what to do, at all."

Karen Kois, also of Seattle, said she knew to get warm clothing, although others were barefoot and lightly dressed.

"I had a sweater on under a raincoat. I gave it to a baby who had nothing," she said.

As for the pushing and shoving, Kois said, the crew "told us go one way, then the other. We didn't know what to do. They were just standing looking at us."

When they succeeded in reaching a life boat, it took 45 minutes to launch it, with the ropes tangled and the little crafts tilted. "And it's pitched black," Kois added.

Above them was the clatter of helicopters trying to pluck people from the decks.

"Have you seen 'Titanic?' That's exactly what it was," said Valerie Ananias, 31, a schoolteacher from Los Angeles. She and sister and parents all had dark red bruises on their knees from crawling along nearly vertical hallways and stairwells to reach rescue boats.

"We were crawling up a hallway, in the dark, with only the light from the life vest strobe flashing," her mother, Georgia Ananias, 61 said. "We could hear plates and dishes crashing, people slamming against walls."

She said an Argentine couple handed her their 3-year-old daughter, unable to keep their balance as the ship lurched to the side and the family found themselves standing on a wall.

"He said 'take my baby,'" Mrs. Ananias said, covering her mouth with her hand as she teared up. "I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down. I didn't want the baby to fall down the stairs. I gave the baby back. I couldn't hold her."

Many of those who arrived on shore with blankets covering their elegant, but not very warm, dinner clothes, lashed out at the ship's crew.

"They are without shame! Without shame!" one passenger shouted after making it to land.

Cruise Ship Crew Is Criticized

Giuseppe Romano, a 57-year-old carabinieri on the cruise, said, "We lived apocalyptic scenes. There was a strident sound followed by a bang and plates and glasses started flying in the restaurant."

"After the first bang, the crew members said there was a fault and that we should stay calm... Then we heard another bang and I think that the ship hit the rocks again. Then the lights went out," Romano said.

"An officer on the ship asked me to help the people. Immediately afterwards I with other men stated taking people off the ship. During this whole apocalyptic scene we saw few crew members," he said.

Mike van Dijk, a 54-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa, said crew members delayed lowering the lifeboats even thought the ship was listing badly.

"We had to scream at the controllers to release the boats from the side," said van Dijk. "We were standing in the corridors and they weren't allowing us to get onto the boats. It was a scramble, an absolute scramble."

The ship's owner was as mystified by the crash as the passengers.

"At the time of the collision with the rock the captain of the Costa Concordia was on the command bridge," said the Director General of Costa Crociera Gianni Onorato speaking to journalists at the port of Porto Santo Stefano.

Onorato said the liner was on its regular, weekly route when it struck a reef.

"The ship was doing what it does 52 times a year, going along the route between Civitavecchia and Savona," Onorato said.

ABC News' Michael S. James and Mark Mooney, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

View Comments (1925)