Costa Concordia Worker Describes Panic

Nick Pisa, Reporter
Costa Concordia Worker Describes Panic

A Costa Concordia crew member broke down in tears as she told a court how she was ordered to tell passengers "everything was under control" after the packed luxury cruise ship was fatally damaged as it struck rocks.

Deputy cabin services director, Jacqueline Abad Quine, was on duty the night the ship hit the reefs after its captain Francesco Schettino altered course to carry out a "sail-by salute" of an island.

She was later seen in video footage trying to reassure passengers, who had gathered on decks close to lifeboat stations.

She described to the hearing the scene of panic and confusion in the minutes following the incident.

Mrs Quine said: "I was ordered to tell the passengers everything was under control. I was told to say that there was a blackout and everyone should return to their cabins and that things would be returning to normal as quickly as possible.

"But people were agitated and worried - they wanted to get onto the lifeboats but the order didn't come. When the passengers got to the muster stations I was told to try and calm them down, to reassure them."

More than 4,000 passengers and crew - including 35 Britons - were onboard the Costa Concordia when it struck an underwater reef off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio just hours after setting sail on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise in January last year.

Mrs Quine broke down in tears as she told the hearing in the Italian town of Grosseto: "I made announcements in English, Spanish and Italian. I called my boss and he said the crew were frightening the passengers with what they were saying.

"Children were hugging their parents, two little ones lost and were trying to find them. Reliving everything again now is really hard for me. The passengers wanted to get onboard the lifeboats.

"They were pushing each other, trying to get on but we didn't have the order to let them get onboard. I had to tell everyone that there was an electrical problem and everything was going to return to normal.

"Eventually the order to abandon ship came from the second officer. I made a human chain with others to get onto a lifeboat and there must have been around 150 people in it.

"When I looked back the ship had capsized. Everyone on the lifeboat was so scared and so was I. I prayed to God for help asking him to help us and to help me so that I knew what to tell the passengers."

Schettino, who was dubbed 'Captain Coward' after the incident, is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the Costa Concordia while passengers and crew were still onboard.

Previously the court has heard how he ended up in a lifeboat ahead of others. At the time of the disaster, a tape recording emerged of him being ordered to get back onto the ship by lifeguard officials, but he refused.

Thirty two people died in the disaster and last week the remains of one of two people missing, a Sicilian woman, were positively identified and she was finally buried. Waiter Russel Rebello is still missing.

The ship was straightened two months ago and has been made secure for the winter ahead of being towed to a dry dock on the mainland next year, where it will be scrapped.