Ten years on, Costa Concordia shipwreck still haunts survivors, islanders

GIGLIO, Italy, Jan.13 (Reuters) – Ester Percossi can still hear the screams, feel the cold and see the terror in people’s eyes.

She is one of the survivors of the sinking of the Costa Concordia, the luxury cruise liner that capsized after hitting rocks just off the coast of the small Italian island of Giglio on January 13, 2012, killing 32 people in the one of the worst maritime waters in Europe. disasters.

Percossi and other survivors returned to the island to pay their respects to the dead and once again thank the islanders who, in the darkness and death of winter, helped 4,200 crew and passengers – over six times the number of winter residents that night.

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“It is extremely moving. We come here today to remember, above all, those who are no longer with us, and to relive the hell we have been through and to somehow try to exorcise it, ”Percossi said upon his arrival on Wednesday. Thursday commemorations.

“I remember the screams of people, people jumping into the sea. I remember the cold, the feeling of dread in everyone’s eyes,” she said.

Although there were many heroes that night, the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was not among them. Nicknamed “Captain Coward” by the Italian media for having abandoned the ship during the rescue, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2017 for manslaughter.

The Costa Concordia cruise liner is seen during the “parbuckling” operation outside the port of Giglio on January 11, 2014. REUTERS / Max Rossi

One crew member who did not depart was Russel Rebello, a waiter who assisted passengers off the ship. His body was not found until several years later, when the huge rusty hulk was straightened and towed in the most expensive salvage shipwreck in history.

“My brother did his duty, he lost his life helping other people, obviously I’m proud of it and I think he would be very proud of what he did, helping so many other people. Russel’s brother Kevin said as he arrived for the commemorations.

“I’m shaking, it’s amazing,” Rebello said as he entered San Lorenzo Church for a memorial mass with survivors and islanders before a ceremony in which flowers were thrown into the sea.

The Concordia was left on its side for two and a half years, looking like a giant white whale stranded. For some residents, he never left.

On the night of the disaster, Sister Pasqualina Pellegrino, an elderly nun, opened the local school, convent and a canteen to accommodate the castaways.

“It’s a memory that never fades. Even when the ship was still there it looked like a person who had been abandoned, it was oozing with sadness because I could see it from the window,” Sister Pasqualina said. .

“And even now, it’s not nice to remember it. But unfortunately, that’s life, you have to go on with pain, with joy, day after day,” she said.

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Philip Pullella reported from Rome; Additional reporting by Yara Nardi, written by Philip Pullella; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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