Entries in Costa Concordia (28)


Costa Concordia's Black Box Broke for 'Umpteenth' Time Before Crash

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(ROME) -- Four days before the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank off Italy's west coast, killing 32 people, emails from the liner's technical director reveal that the vessel had a faulty black box data recorder, according to new documents leaked to an Italian newspaper this week.

In correspondence before the ship capsized on Jan. 13, Pierfrancesco Ferro, a technical director for Costa Cruises, reportedly told a repair company that the black box had broken down for the "umpteenth" time.

"The situation is becoming unbearable," he said via email in reports from an ongoing investigation by Italian authorities.

According to the Corriere Della Sera newspaper, the emails showed that the black box was scheduled to be fixed on Jan. 14, when the cruise ship had docked at Savona.

The recorder was never repaired or replaced, even though the owners of Costa Cruise Lines, a unit of Carnival Corp., insisted to Italian authorities that the recorder had been working when the ship hit rocks and then capsized off the shore of Giglio.

The Costa Concordia was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew when it struck rocks about 450 feet from the shore during the night.  A 160-foot gash was torn into the hull, causing the ship to capsize.  Efforts are still underway to right the ship, which is expected to be a total loss.

In documents, investigators said that not having the working recorder was making their probe into the accident more difficult.  Media reports say they are relying on information from a computer system that crashed during the accident.

The documents obtained by the newspaper also indicated that the ship's watertight safety doors, which were designed to prevent flooding, had been left open.

Even though Costa Cruises maintained that was not true, officers on board reportedly said leaving the doors ajar was standard practice to make it easier for employees to come and go.

The report also suggests that the crew was using unauthorized, outdated maps that were found in the bridge of the ship.

Since Jan. 13, the blame has been placed on Francesco Schettino, the ship's captain, who is still under house arrest facing manslaughter charges for allegedly causing the ship to run aground near Giglio and for abandoning ship.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Costa Concordia Salvage Plan Is Largest in History

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Work to remove the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship from the coast of Italy is set to start within days.

The American Titan Salvage will lead the $300 million removal project by first building an underwater platform and righting the ship with cranes and air-filled balloons before towing it away.

Titan Salvage Spokesperson Captain Rich Habib calls the removal project unprecedented.

"It's the largest re-float in history, but we think it's entirely possible and we think we're going to be successful," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Costa Cruise Lines Survive Two Calamities?

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images(PORT VICTORIA, Seychelles) -- Who says lightning can't strike twice? It has jolted Costa Cruise Lines two times in the past six weeks. The first time was off the coast of Italy in January and then again this week in remote waters off the coast of Africa.

Eleanor and Gordon Bradwell of Athens, Ga., thought they were going on 30-day dream cruise through the Indian Ocean and the Middle East aboard the Costa Allegra.

Instead, they ended up enduring a three-day ordeal, stranded at sea after fire destroyed the ship's generator.

The Bradwells and more than 1,000 other passengers and crew were hostages of the sweltering tropical heat on a ship with no power, no air-conditioning, no working toilets and no kitchens.

"It could have been so much worse," said Gordon Bradwell. "It could have been a disaster of biblical proportions, if that fire had gotten out of control. We were a long way from help. Then who knows what the results could have been."

The Bradwells were at lunch on Monday when they heard seven short beeps and a long beep: the signal to abandon ship.

"There was a good bit of chaos and confusion," said Gordon as he described the moments that followed. "They began to lower the boats, and at that point we thought we were probably going to go into the boats."

"They were very disorganized," said Eleanor, "Totally disorganized, unprofessional in the way they handled it."

The fire was extinguished, no one was injured and everyone could stay on the ship.

But it was much worse six weeks ago when another Costa Cruise Lines ship, the much bigger Costa Concordia, ran aground and toppled over off the Italy's Tuscan coast.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew had to abandon ship in the middle of the night. Thirty-two people died in that incident.

When the Bradwells boarded the Costa Allegra in Mauritius last week, they knew it was part of the same cruise line as the ill-fated Costa Concordia. Eleanor Bradwell said she simply assumed the Concordia disaster was an aberration. "After the Concordia you think this won't happen again."

It did. The Bradwells, both around their 70s, spent three nights sleeping on deck chairs under the stars. Their cabin was uninhabitable, fluctuating between 100 degrees and 110 degrees. The toilets couldn't be flushed, leaving the odor of sewage hanging in the dense humid air.

After enduring all that, I asked Eleanor Bradwell if she would go on a cruise again.

"Well, we would cruise but I will not cruise with Costa. Ever," she said.

A lot of people seem to be saying that these days. After the Jan. 13 wreck of the Concordia, Costa's bookings dropped an estimated 30 percent.

Now the company faces a public relations nightmare, its brand associated with two high-profile mishaps at sea.

Its official name is Costa Crociere, an Italian company based in Genoa. But Costa is wholly owned by the British-American giant Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise ship operator. (Full disclosure: The parent company of ABC News, the Walt Disney Co., also operates a cruise line.)

Since Carnival bought Costa in 2000, the company's fleet has multiplied from five to 14 ships. In 2010, it carried 2.15 million passengers while sales increased 12 percent to $3.8 billion. Costa is Carnival's largest subsidiary.

Now that future of that valuable brand is in peril.

"I think they're going to have to work very hard to survive," cruise industry analyst and writer Bill Miller told ABC News. "It's going to be difficult because people associate them with two highly publicized mishaps. They may even have to consider rebranding themselves, getting a new name."

Costa is bracing for more bad publicity as the inquiry into the Concordia disaster gets under way in Italy this weekend.

Two Italian newspapers, La Stampa and Il Messagero, are publishing lurid details of alleged drug use, drinking and sexual harassment aboard the Costa Concordia.

"I saw with my own eyes officers taking cocaine—to prove it you would only have had to test them," a nurse identified only as Valentina B reportedly told investigators in pre-trial evidence obtained by the newspapers.

Valentina B says she worked on three Costa cruise ships, "each one worse than the other."

Another woman identified as Mary G is quoted in the documents as saying, "I worked on the Costa Concordia in 2010 for two months. Often the officers and other crew members were drunk. Often we'd say to ourselves, 'If there's an emergency, who is going to save the ship?'"

Mary G also claimed to have been "molested" by a crew member who was high on drugs.

"We operate strict safety and surveillance measures concerning drugs possession onboard our ships," Costa said in a statement. "The possession or trade of narcotics onboard is prohibited. Crew members who possess or use drugs or engage in drug trafficking are submitted to disciplinary provisions and disembarked. Onboard there are checks and preventive actions to discourage such behaviors."

While all of this is damaging to Costa's reputation, not all industry watchers think the brand will disappear.

With two of Costa's 14 ships out of commission, the company has two new ships ready to launch.

It just finished rebuilding its 1600-passenger NeoRomantica, which is set to sail on its first voyage in the Mediterranean. The company says the cruise is sold out.

And Costa does seem to have learned from the disaster of the Concordia.

While the Bradwells were critical of the way the crew aboard the Costa Allegra behaved in the first hours, they have nothing but praise for Costa's response to the disabled ship.

The Bradwells said after the first few hours of chaos aboard the Costa Allegra this week, the crew and the cruise line worked hard to ease the discomfort for passengers as living conditions deteriorated. Costa used helicopters to bring in food, flashlights and bottled water.

"They did what they could do," Eleanor said. "They did the best they could do under the circumstances."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mom of Allegra Crew Member Had Son on Concordia

LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A woman whose daughter worked on Costa Cruise Lines’ stricken Allegra also had a son survive the Costa Concordia wreck earlier this month. It’s all “an unlucky coincidence,” she said Tuesday.

“These things in life happen,” Jayne Thomas of England told the BBC. “It’s just a situation in life that you have to deal with. They’ve gone on luxury cruise liners.  They could have gone on an airplane and there could have been a disaster.”

Her daughter Rebecca Thomas, 19, is a dancer on board the Allegra, which became adrift Monday in the Indian Ocean after a fire in the engine room rendered the ship powerless. It’s now being towed — along with its more than 1,000 passengers and crew — and is expected to reach the Seychelles on Thursday.

Her son James Thomas, 23, was a dancer on the Concordia in January that hit rocks off the Italian island of Giglio and capsized. Twenty-five people were killed in that wreck and 11 are still missing and presumed dead.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Eight Bodies Recovered from Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Teams searching the crippled Costa Concordia cruise liner have found another eight bodies, more than a month after the ship capsized off the coast of Italy.

Italian officials had previously put the number of those killed at 32, though only 17 bodies had been recovered, according to the BBC.

The ship struck a patch of rocks on the night of Jan. 13, causing a large gash in the ship’s exterior. The vessel took on water as the ship’s passengers and crew raced to escape, some of them jumping in the water in hopes of swimming to shore.

The ship’s captain and a number of other crew members are currently being investigated for their respective roles in the disaster.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Italian Shipwreck: Cruise Liner May Remain for 10 Months

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- The Costa Concordia cruise ship that partially capsized off the Tuscan coast earlier this month may not be removed until the end of 2012. This news comes as rough water again hampered the latest recovery operations.

Officials announced Sunday that it may take 10 months to remove the ship off the port of the island of Giglio. The beginning of operations to remove 500,000 gallons of the ship's fuel was halted after the cruise liner moved an inch-and-a-half over six hours, shoved by waves reaching as high as three feet.

Only once the fuel is removed can work begin on removing the ship, either by raising it in one piece or cutting it up and towing it away as a wreck.

On Saturday, the body of Peruvian crew member Erika Soria Molina was found, raising the death toll to 17; 16 crew members and passengers remain missing.

One of the bodies brought from the sunken vessel has yet to be identified.  Among those missing are Americans Gerald and Barbara Heil from White Bear Lake, Minn.

For now, the immediate focus is on the environment and the removing of half a million gallons of diesel fuel from the ship's tanks before it leaks out.  Officials said pumping may now not begin until midweek.

So far no leakage has been reported in the area, which is a protected marine sanctuary and popular scuba diving area.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Ship Wreck: Woman’s Body Found, Death Toll Rises to 17 

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- The body of a woman was recovered Saturday from the half-submerged cruise ship that ran aground on Jan. 13, bringing the death toll to 17, according to the Italian civil protection agency.

The woman is believed to be a crew member, according to Italian authorities.

Fourteen of the 17 bodies have been identified, and 15 people are still missing.

Nearly 4,200 people were on board the ship when it ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Owner of Italian Cruise Ship Offers Passengers Compensation

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- The company that owns the Italian cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy earlier this month announced on Friday that it is offering passengers 11,000 euros -- roughly $14,500 -- in compensation for any loss or damage of property and psychological trauma they may have incurred.

Costa Cruises also said it would refund passengers the cost of the cruise, as well as anything they spent on travel or medical care following the crash.

Since the luxury ocean liner Costa Concordia keeled over on Jan. 13, 16 people have been confirmed dead and another 16 are still missing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Search for Bodies in Italian Cruise Ship Done by Touch

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- Divers scouring the toppled Italian cruise ship are working in darkness so complete that they search for bodies by touch.

The description of the laborious search came from Sara and John Heil, who are at the site awaiting word that the bodies of their parents have been found.

"As the days come and go we find this to be such an extreme test of our patience," they said in a statement released late Wednesday.  "We so badly want Mom and Dad to be found so we can bring them home."

Their parents, Jerry and Barbara Heil, are the only Americans still missing from the Jan. 13 crash that partially sank the luxury ocean liner Costa Concordia.  Sixteen people have been confirmed dead and another 16 are still missing.

"We continue to monitor first-hand the ongoing search efforts taking place in Italy," the family said.  "The conditions in which the divers are forced to operate are undoubtedly making this a very slow process."

The Heil family statement said they have been told that divers are working in an area of the ship where they believe they might find the missing bodies.  The area is under 60 feet of water, making it a time consuming operation to get to the search area.

The return to the surface is also done slowly to allow the divers time to decompress.  Because of the depths, divers are restricted in how frequently they can dive down to the search area.

The most difficult part of the search, however, is the murky conditions in which they are working.

"Due to the depth and the fact that they are inside the ship, they are searching in complete darkness and the visibility is approximately one foot.  We can only imagine that much of their searching must be done 'by feel' inside a ship that is over 900-feet long and may have up to 17 floors," they said in their statement.

"The term 'needle in a haystack' certainly seems like an appropriate comparison. We continue to pray for the safety of those searching and express our sincere gratitude for all of their efforts," the family said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Still Missing: Man’s Desperate Search for Brother on Costa Concordia

Courtesy Kevin Rebello(GIGLIO, Italy) -- It’s not just passengers who are still missing from the Costa Concordia disaster.

Kevin Rebello is desperately looking for information on his brother, Russel Rebello, 33, a waiter on the ship from India who was last seen on a deck helping passengers to lifeboats.

Kevin told his story to Chris Cuomo of ABC News' 20/20.

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Russel Rebello, along with 22 others, has now been missing for 12 days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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