As the Costa Concordia cruise ship went down off the west coast of Italy Jan. 13, Nicole Servel’s husband, Francis, gave her the only life jacket they had, The Huff Post reports.
“I owe my life to my husband – it’s obvious he saved me.” According to Daily Mail, she managed to swim for shore, while Mr Servel was swept underwater and drowned.
Speaking from her home near Toulouse, south west France, Mrs Servel recounted the terror as passengers were left in utter panic in the pitch dark, with little or no assistance from the crew.
Mrs Servel said: “He shouted: ‘Jump, jump, jump.’ I can’t swim so he gave me his life jacket. I froze and couldn’t jump, but he jumped off the ship and shouted upwards ‘Come on, don’t worry.'”
She continued: “I jumped off and the last thing I heard him say was that I would be fine. Then I never saw him again.”
“The water was only eight degrees. When I was alone in the water I thought of my children, my grandchildren. The thought of them kept me afloat. It kept me living. I do not know how I did it.”
“I swam for several minutes. I am unable to say exactly how long. And then I found myself on a rock. Villagers came to pick us up.”
“They led us to a church. I was very cold, frozen. In the sacristy we found a cassock. I took it. It made me warm,” she added.
Nicole Servel blames the loss of her husband on the ship’s crew, some of whom saved themselves without helping any passengers.
According to CNN, direction from the ship’s crew was unclear, so many passengers took matters into their own hands, rushing to secure life vests for themselves.
The news source describes people frantically jumping into the water and lifeboats, which became loaded with passengers and stuck atop the icy water.
Survivors recounted a frantic rush by passengers to get on lifeboats, while the crew appeared helpless and overwhelmed to cope.
“There wasn’t anybody to help you,” one of the survivors said. “I mean, the passengers were loading the lifeboats by themselves.”
Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa Cruises, said in a statement Saturday that it was “working to fully understand the cause of what occurred.
The safety of our guests and crew members remains the number-one priority of Carnival Corporation … and all of our cruise lines.”
Costa Cruises on Sunday said crew members on board the Concordia “acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation. We are very grateful for all they have done.”
It said preliminary indications are that there may have been “significant human error” on the part of the ship’s captain.
The captain has been arrested on suspicion of causing deaths. He denies claims by prosecutors that he left the ship before evacuation was complete.
Captain Francesco Schettino insisted he had been last to leave the ship, and said the rock was not marked on his nautical chart.
“It indicated that there was water deep below,” he told Italian TV. “There shouldn’t have been such a rock.”
First officer Ciro Ambrosio has also been detained, according to BBC. Police are investigating why the accident happened in calm conditions.
Following the crash, there are six confirmed deaths, 17 people still unaccounted for, and several injuries to the 4,200 guests on board.