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Cruise Ship Sinking: A Family’s Nightmare

Almost a year after the sinking of the Costa Concordia off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio, the memories of that tragic night still haunt a family from Duanesburg, New York.

Chaos Aboard Sinking Ship

The massive cruise liner sunk after its captain ordered a “salute” to the island of Giglio. A “salute” is an Italian maritime tradition that seems to consist of traveling full speed toward land just to turn about a quarter of a mile offshore and navigate parallel to the coast. However, it appears now that the Costa Concordia was out of position and actually closer to land than its captain, Francesco Schettino, thought it was, when he ordered the stunt.

Consequently, the cruise ship hit the rocky bottom, opening a huge hole on its side that made it list until it sunk, resting on its side off the shore of Giglio. As a result, 32 passengers and crew members lost their lives. Captain Schettino is awaiting trial, charged with manslaughter, abandoning ship before everyone had been evacuated and refusing to go back on the ship after being ordered to do so by the Italian coast guard.

According to, members of the Duanesburg family still remember the chaos on board the sinking ship that night. They remember how confusing orders were given in five different languages (first in Italian, then in Spanish, English, German and French), but none could be heard or understood because of the noise and chaos onboard.

Family Testified Before Congress

The Duanesburg family, wife Joan Fleser, husband Brian Aho and daughter Alana still remember what it felt like to see the sinking ship lean over their tiny lifeboat as they were trying to make it to shore on the Island of Giglio. Once onshore, a local family welcomed them into their home.

The Duanesburg couple is still concerned that the cruise line industry has not done enough to improve safety onboard its ships, despite new rules announced in the wake to the “Costa Concordia” disaster. In March the family attended congressional hearings on cruise safety in Washington, D.C. and were very upset to see that the House Committee was filled with representatives from cruise states who were, obviously, very pro-cruise industry.

Some experts agree with the Duanesburg family, despite the Cruise Line International Association adopting new safety policies such as:

  • Standardizing instructions given to passengers during muster drills;
  • Standardizing procedures on ship bridges within each cruise line;
  • Providing guidance on lifeboat loading for crew training;
  • Urging cruise ship owners to assure course changes are consistent with company policies;
  • Requiring ships to secure heavy objects like pianos and treadmills; and
  • Requiring new ships to store life jackets near lifeboats.

For example, Captain Bill Doherty, Director of Maritime Affairs for Nexus Consulting Group, a security firm based in Virginia says he does not see the need for new enforcement or stiffer regulations. Mr. Doherty, who used to be a safety manager with Norwegian Cruise Lines, says that “ships don’t need more regulations; they need to do what is already required.”

We Can Help

Our law firm has often seen cruise lines pressure passengers that have suffered injuries onboard their ships into accepting a refund as compensation for their injuries in exchange for a full release of the cruise lines responsibility. An injured passenger should not allow the cruise line to pressure you into accepting an offer that is typically unfair. Cruise passenger’s have rights and should immediately consult (for free) with a law firm with experience handling cruise ship claims. Our firm can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for a death or a serious injury. It is important for you to remember that most cruise passenger tickets (contracts) establish a six month from the date of the claim where you must give written notice of the claim to the company (among other requirements) and limit your ability to sue to one year from the date of the accident. Many cruise line tickets REQUIRE that suit be brought in Miami. Therefore having a qualified, Miami based law firm representing you is essential in order to have the cruise line take your claim seriously.

Therefore, it is essential that you consult with and hire an experienced cruise line passenger lawyer as soon as possible. You should not be concerned about fees or costs: most Florida lawyers will not charge you for the initial consultation and will work your case on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not be charged fees or costs, unless the lawyer wins your case.

If you or a close relative suffered an injury while on a cruise, we urge you to contact a law firm with experience handling cruise ship injury cases. The Cruise Lines Injury Lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano have handled many such cases against these cruise lines over the years and can help you obtain the compensation you may deserve.

Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today.

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