Danilo del Carro: 'Dragging a dead body from the sea is something you never get used to'

Tasked with finding bodies aboard the Costa Concordia, a diver tells of life in the murky depths

With a scarcely credible number and variety of military and emergency personnel flooding the little outcrop of Giglio, one tiny but vital component of the rescue effort has distinguished itself by carrying out the most dangerous and so far, the grimmest task of all.

Walk past the local police, national police, carabinieri police, finance police, strutting naval officers, coastguard officials and firemen, and at a small garage by the end of the little bay there are the thick rubber suits of the skilled divers whose job is to take the survivors – or now, more likely the dead – from the stricken Costa Concordia.

Danilo Del Carro, 42, Marshal of the coastguard divers division, is the softly spoken man who found five bodies aboard the liner yesterday and helped pull them out. He told The Independent of the painstaking search he led through the bowels of the capsized liner and the difficulties he and his team faced.

"It's hard to explain how disorientating it is aboard something like the Costa Concordia," he said. "The vessel's tilted at nearly 90 degrees. Things are at the wrong angle; it's dark, and there bits of furniture, chairs, curtains and carpet and stuff moving around, and you never know what you're going to bump into or what's around the next corner. We have strong torches, but you still have to feel you way around."

Working in pairs, he and his 12-strong team worked their way through the ship's decks with all the divers connected to the surface by a cable, which they call the cord of Ariadne, after the cord the mythological figure gave to Theseus to help him escape from the maze of the Minotaur.

"It's cold, too. The water was 12C, and after a while you really feel that, even in these diving suits." Shifts in the cold water were limited to 25 minutes. But yesterday Marshal Del Carro, said he spent a total of one and half hours at the wreck. And with a vessel of such size – its length is nearly 300m (984ft), there is still a large area to search.

"That ship is huge. But the many of the actual spaces are very confined - the cabins and the stairwells. And all the time you're aware that the ship might move any time; you don't want to be trapped in there."

Yesterday morning the diving was called off after sensors showed that the ship had moved slightly but ominously on the rocky ledge just metres from Giglio's tiny port. "I wouldn't say that I was scared in there yesterday. But I'm always aware that it's a dangerous place to be."

Marshal Del Carro also was successful yesterday during his grim mission to find the bodies of those presumed dead aboard the stricken liner. He located five corpses, near one of the main restaurants, and assisted in pulling them from the water and on to a waiting vessel.

He said: "This isn't the first time I've done this. But dragging a dead person from the water is something you can never really get used to."

One of his diver colleagues, Rodolfo Raiteri, said he too had been affected by finding the dead tourists. "When you have dead people in front of you it's always shocking. You couldn't see a thing in that murky water and then we saw them; one, two, three; at the end we counted all five, flung there like puppets, all with orange life-jackets. Straight away you knew they were passengers."

Yesterday the divers were still waiting to see if they would be called on to re-enter the submerged decks of the wreck, to hunt for the remaining 28 passengers who were unaccounted for.

So far, five holes have been blown into the side of the liner to allow divers to explore the flooded areas more easily – and to escape more quickly if things go wrong. If the ship settles and shows no more signs of moving, three more blasts are planned.

"Things aren't looking good. But there maybe a few air pockets in there, and while there's the slightest chance of finding them alive we'll keep working," said Marshal Del Carro.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee