Ten years later, survivors haunted by cruise ship disaster in Italy

Rome (AFP) – On the evening of January 13, 2012, Umberto Trotti heard cries of terror from his wife and baby in the lifeboat below and threw himself from the capsizing Italian cruise ship.

The Costa Concordia, a vast luxury liner, had run aground off the Italian island of Giglio and fell into freezing waters, in a disaster that would kill 32 people.

There had been no room for Trotti in the lifeboat that carried his wife Fjorda and two young children, but hearing their panic as the ship was launched, he jumped up to join them.

“It was out of instinct, my family needed me. I jumped three or four meters (10 or 13 feet). I landed on a fat German, a poor man,” Trotti told the AFP.

The family were unsure whether they should return to Giglio for a ceremony Thursday and a candlelight procession marking 10 years of the disaster.

Ship horns will ring and church bells will ring at 9.45 p.m. (8.45 p.m. GMT) to mark the moment the liner, owned by Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of US giant Carnival, struck an outcrop, after Captain Francesco Schettino ordered a passage. “hi” to the Tuscan island.

Trotti, 44, and Fjorda, 33, were on their honeymoon.

“It was supposed to be the best experience of our life,” he said.

“Those who are not on board will never understand. I was so in shock, I was walking like a zombie.”

‘Atrocious’

The liner, carrying 4,229 people from 70 countries, ran aground while many passengers were having dinner.

Schettino, later sentenced to 16 years for the shipwreck, was slow to sound the alarm.

The evacuation began more than an hour after the collision, when the lifeboats on one side were unusable.

“We were saved by a leader,” says Trotti. They were in the blue and gold Ristorante Milano when the ship made landfall.

Paolo Maspero, still in his hat, “took my six-month-old son in his arms. The water was coming”.

“If he hadn’t come to pick us up, we would be dead,” said Trotti, who couldn’t swim.

Images later shot by the Coast Guard would show divers in the sunken restaurant, battling wrecks, looking for casualties.

People in the Vienna bar listened to pianist Antimo Magnotta, who fell from his stool as the ship swayed.

He found himself surrounded by terrified passengers demanding answers.

“A woman approached me with two very small children. She was like a tiger, a lion, she almost attacked me. She said ‘you have to tell me what to do to save my children'”, a- he told AFP.

Magnotta, who wrote a book called “The Pianist of Costa Concordia,” said he did what he was trained to do and reassured passengers the captain would make an announcement.

“I promised them. But Schettino never spoke. It was a huge betrayal,” he said.

The electricity broke and as the rolling ship became more and more difficult to walk, a series of “hellish” blackouts began.

‘Unforgivable’

“People disappeared into the dark, then reappeared. They shouted ‘Mum, where are you?’. I still remember the names people screaming as they searched for each other today,” said Magnotta, 51. .

He eventually managed to get off the side of the ship. Two of his friends died that night.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the musician moved to London and found work as a waiter at the cafe at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which luckily had a piano.

Months later, he persuaded his manager to let him play and got a permanent gig.

Ten years later, he wanted to return to Giglio to play for the locals. But he is unable to forgive Schettino “for never having said forgiveness”.

The former captain was convicted in 2015 of several counts of manslaughter, causing a maritime accident and abandoning the ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated.

Schettino – nicknamed “Captain Coward” in the media – appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. His lawyers are expected to ask him this year to serve the remainder of his sentence at home for good behavior.

Missing brother

Kevin Rebello, 47, has refused to try Schettino, despite the death of his younger brother on board.

The body of Russel, a 32-year-old waiter, was found three years after the disaster, during the dismantling of the rusty wreckage.

He had been ill that night. “He was in his cabin when it was flooded with water,” Rebello told AFP.

“He rushed in barefoot in shorts and met a friend who loaned him clothes … He helped people get into the lifeboats.

“He was still helping them when the ship tilted sharply and people fell into the water. No one saw him after that.”

Reliving the disaster is “incredibly difficult”, but Rebello returns to Giglio for the birthday.

“It’s like a second home for me. I feel close to my brother when I’m there,” he said.

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