Costa Concordia Survivors: ‘One Year on, Our Lives are Still in Ruins’

NEW YORK | Sunday, January 6th, 2013 10:00am EDT

A year after the tragedy which took lives of dozens of people, many survivors are still struggling to put their lives back on track.

Costa Concordia Survivors One Year on Our Lives are Still in Ruins 01

The Costa Concordia cruise ship went down off the west coast of Italy Jan. 13. Photo: Oleg MrFavo/Flickr

Thirty-two people died in the terrible accident one year ago. Hundreds of people were hurt in the chaos that ensued after the ship hit rocks in Italy.

More than 4,000 people were on board who had to leave the vessel as it listed and then grounded just 300 yards from shore.

The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, who is allegedly responsible for the tragedy, is scheduled to face trial this spring, with prosecutors demanding for a 20-year prison sentence.

The ship owners, Costa Cruises, and its parent company, the dually-listed UK-US company Carnival Cruises, are also prosecuted in numerous cases.

Among those suing are Sándor Fehér’s mother, Teréz, who prayed for days that her son was alive, only to be called to identify him at the morgue in nearby Grosseto.

“I didn’t think for a moment that he wouldn’t be among the survivors,” said Mrs Fehér. “He was a great swimmer, knew the area, and he had his 10 years of experience with ships. I still don’t understand how this could have happened.”

The two surviving Hungarian musicians, Mr Csanya and pianist Joszef Balogh, 35, both evacuated at the last minute from a different part of the ship, also shared their sad experiences.

“We knew that something went horribly wrong, because all this was very unusual. At first, the intercom kept saying that it was just an electrical problem. It was repeated in many languages, but we weren’t told the truth. We knew that it had to be something else.”

“Sándor went back to where we set off from. Why didn’t I tell him to come with me? I don’t know… That was the last time we were together.”

According to The Telegraph, hundreds of people involved in the accident still suffer post traumatic stress and are coping with new phobias – of water, narrow spaces, crowds and heights.

A spokesman for Costa Cruises told reporters: “Almost 93 per cent of Costa Concordia crew have accepted the offered compensation. About 80 per cent of crew members have already been re-embarked on other vessels of the Costa fleet.”

Joseph Strible, one of the victims, as well as other who suffered in the accident, is taking legal action against Concordia’s owners. He could not get a place on a lifeboat.

The 20-year-old in order to escape had to jump from the ship and swim to shore in the darkness and freezing water.

He said: “I remember looking down at the water and thinking I was going to drown. There were no lifeboats we could use and the water was climbing higher and higher up the boat.”

“I just told myself I was going to die unless I jumped. Then I remember just swimming in the freezing cold water for land,” Strible added.

“There were people all around me in the water. I looked back and the ship looked like something out of Titanic. It was towering over me and I could hear it creaking over the sound of people screaming.”

The disaster had “changed everything”, the victim said. “I’m paranoid and panicky now. Every little alarm sets me off.”

The compensation offered was “barely enough to cover my possessions”, he concluded.

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