Costa Concordia survivors embroiled in legal battle must fly back to Italy
Survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster are being forced to fly back to Italy today after the cruise operator failed to accept the findings of UK medical experts.
Four years on from the ship capsizing off the Tuscan coast, lawyers for the victims have accused Costa Crociere SpA of adding to the distress of those still waiting for justice by delaying proceedings.
The liner had been carrying 4,200 people when it wrecked on January 13 2012, resulting in the death of 32 people.
The cruise line also still refuses to admit liability or pay damages to injured passengers taking proceedings in Italy.
International lawyers from Irwin Mitchell, who are representing 12 of the passengers and crew who suffered physical and psychological injuries and who are now having to undergo further medical assessments, say that returning to Italy is "likely to only serve to compound the trauma" experienced by the victims.
Captain of the ship Francesco Schettino was convicted of manslaughter and causing the shipwreck by colliding with a reef near the tiny Giglio island and of abandoning the capsized vessel with people still aboard.
He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, which following an appeal from both the defence and prosecution, was upheld.
Following several court hearings in Genoa, Italy, cruise operator Costa Crociere SpA's lawyers rejected the assertion that the company bore any blame in the shipwreck, and called the verdict "balanced".
In 2014, Irwin Mitchell secured undisclosed settlements for a number of other British passengers, including compensation for their pain, suffering and financial losses.
Irwin Mitchell lawyer Philip Banks said that the victims had "suffered enough" and that legal proceedings should be kept to a minimum.
He added: "We are bitterly disappointed for our clients that Costa Crociere SpA has still not admitted liability for the disaster that happened over four years ago.
"The incident is still firmly in the minds of clients who are trying to fully come to terms with their injuries, and for them to have to fly back to Italy for their medical examinations may well open up old wounds."
He urged the lawyers of Costa Crociere SpA to work "constructively" to try to resolve clients' claims.
British ex-pat Sandra Rogers, who now lives in Spain, lost her husband's ashes when the ship went down and is still reeling over how survivors were treated in the aftermath.
She said: "I think it is shameful that in the wake of the disaster, we were treated like a problem and here we are again having a multitude of obstacles put in our way before we can truly access justice. It is despicable and cruel."
Andrea Davis from Alberta in Canada was on board the Costa Concordia to celebrate her husband Laurence's 60th birthday.
Mrs Davis said: "I am astonished and overwhelmed with sheer disbelief that the cruise operator has denied liability for what happened, especially after the captain was found guilty. How much longer can they continue to traumatise the survivors and add salt to our wounds?"