On January 13, 2012, Umberto Trotti heard the panicked screams of his wife and child in the lifeboat below, and threw himself off the Italian cruise ship that capsized.
The Costa Concordia, a spacious luxury ship, ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio and was falling into freezing waters, in a disaster that would kill 32 people.
There was no place for Trotti in the lifeboat that took his wife Fiorda and two young children, but when he heard their panic as the boat was lowered into the water, he jumped to join them.
«It was instinct, my family needed. I jumped, three or four meters (10 or 13 feet). I landed on a poor big German man,» Trotte told AFP.
A memorial service was held in Giglio today to mark 10 years since the disaster, a wreath was thrown into the water in memory of the victims and a candlelight procession was planned.
Ship horns and church bells will be heard at 9.45pm (8.45 Irish time) to commemorate the moment the ship, owned by Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of US giant Carnival, hit a bump after captain Francesco Schettino ordered a «salute to sail» a Tuscan island. .
The Costa Concordia cruise ship off the island of Giglio on the Tuscan coast.
Source: Alamy Stock Photo
Trotti, 44, and Fiorda, 33, were on their honeymoon.
«It was supposed to be the best experience of our lives,» he said.
“Those who are not on board will never understand. I was in so much shock, I was walking like a zombie.”
The ship, carrying 4,229 people from 70 countries, ran aground while many passengers were having dinner.
Chetino, who was later sentenced to 16 years in prison for the sinking of the ship, delayed the alarm.
The evacuation began over an hour after the impact, at which point the lifeboats on one side were unusable.
«A chef saved us,» Trotti says. They were at the Ristorante Milano in blue and gold when the ship hit the ground.
Paolo Maspero, still wearing his chef’s hat, «carried my six-month-old son in his arms. The water was flowing.»
«If he hadn’t come to get us, we would have died,» said Trotti, who was unable to swim.
The capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship is located off the port of Giglio Island.
Source: Alamy Stock Photo
Photographs later taken by the Coast Guard showed divers in the sunken restaurant fighting among the wrecks in search of victims.
The people in the Vienna Bar were listening to the pianist Antimo Magnotta, who had fallen from his chair as the ship staggered.
He found himself surrounded by panicked passengers demanding answers.
«A woman came to me with two very small children. She was like a tiger, a lion, she almost attacked me. You have to tell me what to do to save my children,» she told AFP.
Magnotta, who wrote a book called «The Pianist of the Costa Concordia,» said he did what he was trained to do, and reassured passengers that the captain would make an announcement.
«I promised them. But Schettino never spoke. It was a great betrayal,» he said.
The electricity went out, and as the rolling ship became more and more difficult to walk, a series of «infernal» blackouts began.
The people disappeared into the darkness, then reappeared again. They shouted «Mom, where are you?». “I remember to this day the names people shouted at each other,” said Magnotta, 51.
He eventually managed to get off the side of the ship. Two of his friends died that night.
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Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the musician moved to London and found work as a waiter in the Victoria and Albert Museum café, which fortunately had a piano.
Months later, he convinced his manager to let him run it, and he got a permanent gig.
Ten years later, he wants to go back to Giglio to play with the locals. But he is unable to forgive Schettino «because he didn’t say sorry».
The former captain was convicted in 2015 of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a sea accident and leaving the ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated.
Schettino appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. This year, his lawyers are expected to request that he serve the remainder of his sentence at home for good behaviour.
Kevin Rebello, 47, declined to prosecute Chetino, despite the death of his younger brother on the ship.
The body of Russell, a 32-year-old bartender, was recovered three years after the disaster, when the rusting debris was unraveled.
He was ill that night. «He was in his cabin when the water flooded,» Rebelo told AFP.
“He went barefoot in shorts and met a friend who had lent him his clothes…help the people into the lifeboats.
“He was still helping them when the ship tilted sharply and people fell into the water. Nobody saw him after that.”
Recovering the disaster is «extremely difficult», but Rebelo returns to Giglio to celebrate the anniversary.
«It’s like a second home to me. I feel close to my brother when I’m there.
«Lector profesional. Jugador galardonado. Aficionado a los zombis. Adicto a las redes sociales. Experto en tocino. Erudito en Internet»