The Heroes of the Concordia
Stories of courage and heroism aboard the striken luxury cruiser Costa Concordia are beginning to emerge in stark contrast with the behavior of the captain Francesco Schettino.
Branded "Captain Coward" by the international press, Schettino is currently under house arrest on charges that include manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.
While Schettino watched the rescue operations from the reef, where he had disembarked after having "fallen into a lifeboat" (as he claimed during his first court hearing), another captain, Roberto Bosio, coordinated the ship's evacuation with other crew members.
Bosio, who happened to be on board the Concordia as a passenger, began to evacuate the ship some 13 minutes before Schettino gave the abandon-ship instruction.
"We looked each other in the eyes for a second and then we just got on with it," Bosio, who captains the Concordia's sister ship the Serena, told reporters.
"I'm no hero. I and the others with me just did our duty," he said.
According to preliminary court judge Valeria Montesarchio, "members of the crew and officers still aboard the ship were doing everything they could to make possible the disembarkation of the passengers," she noted in the ordinance that put Schettino under house arrest.
Manrico Giampedroni, the 57-year-old ship's purser, helped load hundreds of passengers into lifeboats and continued to search the decks for more people until he fell, broke a leg and remained trapped in a dark submerged area of the ship.
He was dramatically rescued after a 36-hour nightmare.
A sad fate awaited Tomás Alberto Costilla Mendoza, a 50 year old Peruvian cleaning supervisor. As he tried to help a group of passengers get into a lifeboat, he fell into the cold waters off the island of Giglio and died from hypothermia.
Michele Ghiani, 21, a children's entertainer, managed, with the help of other colleagues, to safely return 23 children to their families. The children had been watching a kids' show at the 10th floor.
Sandor Feher, a 38-year-old Hungarian violinist who was working as a musician on the ship, helped several children put on lifejackets before returning to his cabin to retrieve his violin.
His body was found inside the wreck by divers searching the capsized ship.
Although the Birkenhead tradition — women and children first — did not really live on the Concordia, not all people fought to get a place on the rescue boats.
The last time anyone saw Giuseppe Girolamo, a long-haired drummer in the on-board band who is among the more than 20 missing people, he was giving up his place in one of the lifeboats to a child.
Witnesses recall that missing German passenger Gabriele Grube was insisting that three people in wheelchairs take her place on a lifeboat.
In a gesture of love, Francis Servel, a 71-year-old retiree from Toulouse, France, sacrificed his own life to save his wife Nicole, 61, who couldn't swim.
"He jumped off the ship and shouted upwards 'Come on, don't worry.' I jumped off and the last thing I heard him say was that I would be fine. Then I never saw him again," Nicole Servel said.
She was washed up against some rocks, and then rescued by villagers. Francis's body was one of the first to be identified.
While everybody was trying to escape the stranded Concordia, Mario Pellegrini, the deputy mayor of Giglio, boarded the ship climbing ladders that had been lowered.
He remained there for more than six hours, helping frightened passengers to safety.
"They were all crammed together and screaming in panic. The water was raising, and it was all slippery because of the ship inclination," Pellegrini said.
He told the Italian daily La Repubblica that he managed the rescue operations with the help of three people: the ship's purser, a doctor and a young officer.
Like real heroes, the doctor and the officer disappeared in silence after saving hundreds of lives.
"I'd like to thank them, but I don't know their names," Pellegrini said.
Image: Rescued passengers at Giglio island, awaiting to board a ferry to the mainland. (Credit: Rvongher/Wikimedia Commons).