Costa Concordia Passengers Plan Lawsuit, As Death Toll Rises

Passengers from the doomed Costa Concordia are planning a lawsuit, as the search for survivors continues in a cruise ship accident that has left at least 11 dead.

Passengers from the luxury liner crash have joined in a class action against the ship’s owner, said Agence France-Presse, citing Italian consumer rights group, Codacons. “Over 70 passengers who were on board the ship have joined the class action suit initiated by our association,” said Codacons head, Carlo Rienzi. Rienzi said the group’s objective for compensation involves “material damage and also for… the fear suffered, the holidays ruined, and the serious risks endured.”

Human error is blamed for the cruise ship disaster that has claimed—at last count—11 lives and has left 25 passengers and 4 crew unaccounted for; however, there is confusion on actual numbers, noted CBS News. The capsized ship was traveling with over 4,000 passengers when it ran aground late Friday on the rocks of Tuscany’s Giglio Island, off northern Italy’s coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In breaking news, an audio was just released in which Schettino can be heard making excuses as the Italian coast guard continually orders him to return to the vessel and oversee its evacuation. The ship’s captain told port authorities that all was well just before the liner sank, claiming there was only a “small technical failure” when the vessel had actually run aground. This, according the recovered radio conversation that Italian media obtained, said The Independent.

At 9:49 p.m. Friday, a port official asked, over the ship’s radio: “Concordia, is everything ok?” Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that the ship’s response was “positive.” Five minutes later, the Livorno port operations room contacted the liner again following a passenger report of a “shipwreck,” said The Independent. The question was answered with, “It is just a technical problem.” At 12:42 a.m. Captain Francesco Schettino allegedly said he was not on board, said The Independent.

Captain Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard in Livorno, demanded, “You must tell me how many people there are, how many passengers, women, and children, and co-ordinate the rescue operation.” Schettino responded: “I am on board … But I am here,” assuring the official that he would carry out his orders. It was later discovered he was allegedly nearing the Tuscan shore at that point and entering a taxi, said Il Fatto Quotidiano. Schettino, who is under investigation on manslaughter charges, abandoning ship, and causing a shipwreck, will find out today if he is to remain jailed during the probe, said The Independent.

When he was told to reboard, on several occasions, Schettino answered with various excuses, “Commander, please…,” then, “I am here with the rescue boats, I am here, I am not going anywhere, I am here …,” then, “I am here to coordinate the rescue…” At one point, Schettino asked De Falco how many bodies were involved, typically a piece of information the captain would provide, not request. He then whined, “But do you realize it is dark and here we can’t see anything…” The captain also said the ship was tipping and that there was another lifeboat in his way. Authorities argued with him for what they described as an hour, repeatedly commanding the captain to return to the ship. Although he said he would return—and continues to maintain he remained on board the entire time—various eye witness and survivor reports allege he never did.

The audio transcript of the bizarre conversation between port authorities and the jailed captain was confirmed, today, to the Associated Press and can be accessed here.

Meanwhile, the death toll has almost doubled since the last announcement, with the most recently reported 5 bodies found in the ship’s rear, near an emergency evacuation point, all wearing life jackets, and all believed to be passengers, said Italian Coast Guard Commander Cosimo Nicastro. Yesterday, we wrote that the sixth body found—a man—was discovered, also wearing a lifejacket in a corridor that was still above water. The recent list of missing passengers, according to Italian officials, includes 14 Germans (the German Foreign Ministry confirms 12), 6 Italians, 4 French, 2 Americans, 1 Hungarian, 1 Indian, and 1 Peruvian. Four crew are missing.

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