Harrowing descriptions of how the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia disaster met their deaths have been presented to an Italian judge.
A dossier prepared by prosecutors describes how terrified passengers, finding no space on life rafts, fell into the sea and drowned, while others became trapped inside the flooded vessel as it began to tilt at an alarming angle just an hour after rocks ripped a 50-metre hole in its side.
The disaster’s youngest victim, five-year-old Dayana Arlotti, drowned with her father William because “having not found places in a lifeboat on the port (left) side, they were directed by members of the crew to the starboard side and while crossing through an internal corridor they fell into the abyss caused by the vessel’s final tilt”.
Even some who made it to lifeboats were not saved. Erika Fani Soria Molina, 25, a Peruvian waitress who had helped dozens of passengers escape, was sucked below the water inside the stricken vessel after she fell out of a life raft. She had given her life jacket to an elderly man.
Italian coast guard officials say that had the ship been evacuated immediately after hitting the rocks at 9.42pm on 13 January last year – instead of 76 minutes later, as actually happened – then there could have been little or no loss of life.
The document has been passed to a preliminary investigations judge in the town of Grosseto, who must decide if the Concordia’s skipper, Capt Francesco Schettino, should be sent to trial on charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship before his passengers.
Prosecutors say that the presence of passengers, including Domnica Cemortan, a Moldovan dancer romantically linked to Mr Schettino, on deck “would have increased confusion and distraction” while the ship was attempting a risky sail-by manoeuvre. Five crew members and three senior Costa Cruises officials may also be sent to trial.