MIAMI (CN) – Passengers on the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship, which crashed and sank off Italy, paint a picture of chaos, panic and deceit, in a complaint against Carnival Corporation, in Miami-Dade County Court.
Hector Perez and eight other plaintiffs say the captain, who abandoned ship, waited almost an hour and a half after he knew the ship would sink before giving the order to evacuate.
“The stories told by passengers who survived the ordeal were ones of chaos, lies, and abandonment – Concordia’s crew ignored her passengers, leaving only ‘chefs and waiters’ to help them survive – passengers were forced to jump into the freezing waters in an attempt to swim for shore,” the complaint states.
The Costa Concordia hit a reef about half a mile off the Italian coast at around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, slicing a 160-foot hole in the hull.
But in their 16-page complaint, the plaintiffs say that when the lights began to flicker the crew told them the ship just had some electrical problems, and told them go back to their cabins.
“Within fifteen minutes of the collision, Concordia’s engine room informed the captain that the hull was irreparably breached, that that generators and engines were submerged, and that ‘there was nothing to be done’ – the captain knew Concordia would sink,” the complaint states.
“Soon thereafter, the onboard lights began to flicker, Concordia began to list, and passengers began to panic.
“The passengers, however, were not told of the collision nor that Concordia was sinking. Despite a coded alarm to the crew indicating a breached hull, passengers were told: ‘Please stay calm, everything is under control, it’s just a minor technical fault.’
“Fending for themselves, passengers began to call the Italian police onshore, who forwarded their pleas to the Italian coast guard. In response, the Italian coast guard contacted Concordia for a report on the situation, but was not told of the collision nor the gash in her hull.
“Around 10:05 p.m., Concordia’s Captain told the coast guard that: ‘It’s all OK, it’s just a blackout, we’re taking care of the situation.'”
The plaintiffs say passengers put on life vests and waited by lifeboats, as the ship began to list almost immediately after the crash.
“Finally, around 10:50 p.m., again under pressure from the Italian coast guard, Concordia’s Captain ordered the ship to be abandoned,” the complaint states.
“Less than an hour later, the Captain and some of the senior crew boarded a lifeboat and abandoned Concordia with women and children and elderly passengers.
“Concordia’s crew was unprepared to evacuate Concordia with a significant list.
“Around 11:40 p.m., Concordia’s Captain was seen ashore. But he later informed the Italian coast guard that he was ‘coordinating the rescue.’
“The stories told by passengers who survived the ordeal were ones of chaos, lies, and abandonment – Concordia’s crew ignored her passengers, leaving only ‘chefs and waiters’ to help them survive – passengers were forced to jump into the freezing waters in an attempt to swim for shore.
“The events onboard the Concordia could not occur in the absence of negligence or reckless disregard of human life. Every passenger on board could have been saved had they been instructed to abandon ship immediately after the collision or had the passengers been allowed to follow their own instincts and board the lifeboats. Instead, the crew turned them away-a death sentence for some.”
The plaintiffs add: “Around 12:50 a.m., after a now infamous exchange in which the Italian coast guard chastised Concordia’s captain and crew for their recklessness and cowardice in the face of the emergency, the Coast Guard took control of the operation.”
Twenty-five people died; seven are missing and presumed dead.
The plaintiffs seek “all available damages” for negligence, negligent retention and negligent training.
Their lead counsel is Lewis Eidson Jr., with Colson Hicks & Eidson, of Coral Gables
Named as defendants are Carnival Corp., Costa Cruise Lines Inc., Costa Crociere SPA and “unknown subsidiaries.”