CHICAGO (CN) – A crew member of the cruise ship that ran aground off Italy claims in a federal class action that Carnival Corp.’s practice of sailing too close to shore, to “present a spectacle,” killed at least 16 people and endangered 4,000 more.
Gary Lobaton, a native of Peru, sued Panama-based Carnival Corp., and its United Kingdom and Italian affiliates, Carnival PLC and Costa Crociere S.p.A.
Lobaton was a crew member of the Costa Concordia, whose captain became an international pariah when he allegedly abandoned ship after grounding it on rocks off the coast of Italy.
Lobaton seeks to represent all the passengers and employees on board the Costa Concordia on Jan. 13, when it sank near Isola del Giglio.
“To date 16 bodies have been recovered and 16 more remain missing,” the complaint states.
Italian officials said today that they have called off the search for more bodies, with the toll at 17 confirmed dead and 15 missing.
Lobaton says in his complaint that when the hull was breached “Costa Concordia’s Captain, Francesco Schettino, delayed the order to abandon ship and deploy the lifeboats.”
The complaint states: “According to reports, Captain Schettino’s decision to sail close to Isola del Giglio was attributed by the captain to the defendants’ management in putting him under intense pressure to sail the cruise ship close to the island in order to present a spectacle to Costa Concordia’s passengers.
“During a telephone conversation with his friend in the hours after he was arrested, Captain Schettino said: ‘Management was always saying ‘pass by there, pass by there.’ Someone else in my position might not have been so amenable to pass so close but they busted my balls, pass by there, pass by there, and now I’m paying for it.’
“Captain Schettino attributed his action to the cruise company encouraging the practice of sailing close to the island because it was good ‘publicity’ and went down well with passengers in the increasingly competitive cruise ship business.”
Lobaton adds: “Captain Schettino, instead of being the last man to leave the vessel and using all reasonable efforts to assure that all passengers and crew members are evacuated to safety, breached his duty as the master of his vessel, and abandoned his ship in the first available opportunity he had.
“Based on a recording of a telephone conversation between the captain and the port authority, Captain Schettino was ordered by the coastguard to return to the stricken vessel after he claimed that the evacuation was almost complete when it had scarcely begun. …
“Due to Captain Schettino’s cowardly and reckless action and defendants’ negligent practice, 16 people are dead and 16 more remain missing and over 4,000 people have suffered damages and continue to suffer damages.”
Carnival Corporation “is the largest vacation company in the world,” the complaint states. “Its portfolio of leading cruise bands [sic] includes Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn in North America,” and it caters to more than 8.5 million guests per year.
Lobaton seeks punitive damages for violation of the Athens Convention, breach of contract, negligence, and unjust enrichment.
He is represented by Monica Kelly with Ribbeck Law.