Many thought that raising the capsized Costa Concordia would put an end to the year and a half-long saga, but with the raising of the Concordia, a hundred more questions have also been raised regarding the cruise ship accident. Our cruise lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. were hoping the victims of the tragic crash and the loved ones of those who perished would at least obtain some semblance of peace with the righting of the vessel, but now, officials report that they have discovered human remains amidst the wreckage.
According to officials, the remains are believed to be those of the only two victims whose bodies were never recovered, passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi and crew member Russel Rebello. The victims were presumed to have drowned, along with 30 others, on January 12 when the accident occurred off the coast of Giglio, Italy.
After the vessel was deemed secure for investigation last week, a search party was commissioned to scour the area in hopes of finding the missing victims and, hopefully, to uncover any additional evidence that might shed some light on what really happened the night of the cruise accident.
Most people are pointing fingers at the Concordia captain Francesco Schettino, whose choice to alter the ship’s itinerary ultimately led to the vessel’s demise. Schettino ordered a last minute change in the course of the Concordia in order to perform a maneuver known as a “salute,” which brings a vessel close to shore. The move is basically a way for a captain to show off the grandeur of a vessel, but in this case, it was a move that sent the Concordia to a watery grave.
The Concordia crashed against a giant rock near Giglio’s shore, which tore a gash in the vessel’s hull and caused it to partially sink. Schettino has been criticized for his actions and has been charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship, after he fled the accident scene before everyone else was safely off the ship.
Schettino is also the last crew member whose case is still on trial. Several other crew members who were also accused of manslaughter for their role in the accident were found guilty, but their sentences were suspended. As for Costa Crociere Spa, the owner of the Concordia, blame has also been lifted as the cruise company paid a 1 million Euro fine to avoid persecution.
We have yet to learn what Schettino’s fate will be, which at this point, can go in either direction. All focus has now been shifted to the discovery of the victims’ remains, which were uncovered beneath the Concordia on the seabed last week, an area that had previously been deemed as an area of major interest.
Confirmation on whether the remains are in fact those of Trecarichi and Rebello awaits the results of a DNA test, which can take one week at the very least.
Rebello was a Concordia waiter while Trecarichi was traveling as a passenger. She had been celebrating her 50th birthday with a friend, her daughter and her daughter’s friend. The two young women survived.
Sadly, Trecharichi could have also survived, had she not made a crucial decision that could have possibly sealed her fate. After the crash, the victim made sure her daughter was safely on a lifeboat and then returned to her cabin to get a jacket because she was cold. As she waited for the next lifeboat, the Concordia began to sink.
Each cruise ship attorney at our firm understands that when an accident occurs on the high seas, victims may react to the situation in different ways. Some may panic and become paralyzed with fear, unable to walk, talk or even properly assess the situation. Others, like Trecharichi it seems, may mask their fear with a calm, cool attitude as a way to cope with the emergency. Had Trecarichi fully taken in the gravity of the situation, perhaps she would have gotten on the lifeboat with her daughter and made it safely to shore.
Though cruise ship accidents are common, tragedies of this magnitude do not happen all that frequently. When they do, however, our attorneys warn travelers of the need to remain as calm as possible, grab a lifejacket from their cabin and make their way to their assigned muster stations. Concordia survivors recounted an extremely chaotic evacuation process, with crew members barely able to communicate and seemingly running amuck without much knowledge on how to address an emergency situation.
While being consumed with panic doesn’t help anyone, downplaying the situation at hand doesn’t help either. It’s critical that victims leave belongings behind and focus on their safety and the safety of their loved ones.
When an accident occurs at sea, families and groups can quickly be separated. Our cruise lawyers also advise anyone traveling on a cruise ship to carry walkie talkie devices so group members can be able to communicate with each other at all times and without having to worry about dropped calls or a lack of signal with a cellular phone.
We also advise on passengers making a game plan while onboard, establishing meeting points in case an accident were to occur. This tactic is not only beneficial in the event of an accident, but also when an individual passenger has gone missing. Establishing meeting points and times will help loved ones find each other easier as well as report accidents or crimes much faster.
Cruise ship vacations can be a lot of fun, but it’s important passengers understand that accidents can – and do – happen. Cruise lines don’t always provide a safe shipboard environment, so it’s often up to passengers to exercise caution and come up with a plan that will keep everyone in the group as safe as possible.