The survivors: 'Chaos reigned as men pushed ahead of women and kids to board lifeboats'

 

British passengers have told of the chaos on board the Costa Concordia cruise ship as men pushed ahead of women and children to get on to lifeboats as the ship listed after running aground off the coast of Italy.

Retired police chief inspector Ed Gurr, 64, and his wife Liz heard a jolt and the lights went out. They headed to the deck but members of the crew said it was a "generator problem". Mr Gurr said: "After about half an hour the crew told people to get into the lifeboats but the ship was listing at the time. Male passengers were pushing ahead of women and children. My wife got on to lifeboat 17 but then they closed the dock. I went to find another boat but my wife told me later that about 20 people had squeezed on after I left. Apparently someone even fell between the ship and the lifeboat but they managed to pull them back on."

Mr Gurr found safety on an inflatable lifeboat and met his wife on Giglio. He praised staff and people on the island but said: "I think it will be a while before we go on another cruise."

John Rodford, 46, and his wife Mandy, 45, from Medway in Kent were celebrating their wedding anniversary on the cruise. At Heathrow yesterday afternoon Mrs Rodford said she feared her "life was over" when she realised the angle of the ship meant the lifeboat she was in could not be lowered into the sea. She said: "I just thought my life was gone ... I thought, if I don't die from the swimming part, I'm going to die from the shock."

Honeymooners Ian and Janice Donoff were watching a magic show. They had to be lowered down the side of the boat on a rope ladder, after the ship's angle prevented the first lifeboat they boarded being dropped into the water. Mr Donoff told BBC News: "It's the most frightening thing coming down on a rope ladder ... it was an unbelievable ordeal."

Séamus and Carol Moore, from Clonmel in Co Tipperary, were on the cruise to celebrate Carol's 50th birthday. Their lifeboat almost collapsed because it was too full and had to be hauled back on deck.

They then called the friend looking after their youngest son "just to let him know what the situation was".

Mr Moore said: "Not to say anything to the children initially and to tell the kids that we loved them and tell them what our arrangements were in terms of leaving stuff, just in case."

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