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 timesunion.com, 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.”
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