Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Costa Concordia anniversary marked

Relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia shipwreck, aboard a ferry approach the ship off the Tuscan Island Isola del Giglio (AP)

Costa Concordia survivors and relatives of the 32 people who died have marked the first anniversary of the disaster in Italy.

Memorials were unveiled to the victims, while a Mass was held in their honour before a minute's silence recalled the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany.

One of the most moving tributes came first, with the daybreak return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore a 230ft gash into the hull of the ocean liner on January 13 2012, when the captain took it off course.

The boulder remained embedded in the mangled steel as the 112,000-tonne vessel capsized off Giglio island along with its 4,200 passengers and crew.

As fog horns and sirens wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder back onto the reef off Giglio where it belonged, returning it to the seabed affixed with a memorial plaque. Relatives of the dead threw flowers into the sea and embraced as they watched the ceremony from a special ferry that bobbed in the waves under a grey sky.

They wept during the Mass and ran their fingers over the names of the 32 dead that were engraved on a bronze plaque unveiled at the end of Giglio's jetty, near where the Concordia still lies on its side.

Later, under a cold rain, they gathered on the jetty holding candles to observe a moment of silence at 9.45pm, the exact moment in 2012 when the Concordia slammed into the reef after Captain Francesco Schettino took it off its pre-programmed course and brought it closer to Giglio as a favour to friends from the island.

"Having the possibility to see everything, we can accept it a bit more, but there is still a long way to overcome this loss, especially for my mother who suffered a lot for her son," said Madeleine Costilla Mendoza, whose brother Tomas Alberto Costilla Mendoza of Peru was a steward on the ship.

Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He has not been charged but is living under court-ordered restrictions pending a decision on whether to indict him.

He maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea, and claims the reef he hit was not on his nautical charts. In an interview with RAI state television, Schettino again defended his actions and said he wanted to "share in the pain of all the victims and the families of the victims".

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