Late on the night of Friday, January 13, 4,000 people aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship were thrown into a state of panic as the ship hit a rock off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio. Many people have seen the movie Titanic, but few experience the feeling of a huge cruise ship beginning to sink.
Captain Francesco Schettino was in command of the ship when he apparently made a bad decision, taking the ship too close to land. The hull struck a rock on a sandbar off the tiny island of Giglio. It is believed that Captain Schettino abandoned the sinking ship before the passengers had evacuated and may now face criminal charges. He has been placed under house arrest. According to the New York Daily News, he may face up to 15 years of prison under the charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship, and causing a shipwreck.
Currently 11 people have been confirmed dead and 22 are still missing as crews continue to search the wreckage. Among the missing are Americans Jerry and Barbara Heil, a couple from Minnesota.
In a recorded exchange between Gregorio De Falco, a coast guard officer, and Schettino, after Schettino fled the scene of the shipwreck in a lifeboat, De Falco ordered Schettino to return. The captain whined and made excuses. He did not follow orders and allegedly rowed his lifeboat to shore and went to a hotel.
The shipwreck sits on the edge of a deep, rocky ledge under the water, perhaps 160 to 300 feet deep. It has already shifted slightly and there is a possibility of it falling off the ledge. If this happens the 2,300 tons of fuel that are currently onboard the ship could leak into the water, potentially causing environmental disaster.
Costa Cruises, the company that owned the ship, has publicly apologized for the tragic event, claiming it was a result of “human error”.