What Went Wrong on the Costa Concordia?

The sight of behemoth pleasure vessel Costa Concordia sideways in the sea became an indelible image around the world. Here’s the full story of how this entirely avoidable vacation-turned-nightmare unfolded.

The surreal sight of the Costa Concordia on Jan. 14, 2012, crippled and capsized off the Italian coast the morning after the accident, became an iconic image worldwide. – AP/Wide World Photos

The COSTA CONCORDIA in a very rough sea would have made the RMS TITANIC look like child play.

Our thanks to Popular Mechanics and Barbara S. Peterson for this excellent story on Carnival Corp’s COSTA CONCORDIA disaster.

Antonello Tievoli, headwaiter on the Costa Concordia, stepped onto the bridge of the cruise ship at 9:15 pm on Friday, Jan. 13, of this year. From the wide windows, Tievoli could see the glittering lights of his home, Giglio Island, drawing closer.

Capt. Francesco Schettino knew that Tievoli’s sister lived on Giglio, and invited him to the bridge as they cruised past. With its 13 brightly lit decks, the ship was more brilliant than anything on the island. The 4200 people onboard outnumbered the island’s residents four to one.

The captain was no longer following his charted course—he had ordered the 952-foot-long ship to cruise at least 4 miles closer to the island. Insiders say that it was a special tradition for Costa liners to salute a beloved former captain, Mario Palombo, as they passed by his home on Giglio. The ship, which had earlier slowed down while Schettino lingered over a meal, accelerated to 16 knots, a brisk speed for a large vessel less than a mile from a coastline.

Great video on Costa Cruises history…

Costa Cruises is the largest Italian group in Tourism and the n.1 cruise company in Europe, which boasts 60 years of history. In 2008 Costa Cruises carried a total of about 1,200,000 guests, a record for the European cruise industry. Its fleet, Europe’s largest and most advanced, has a total of 14 ships in service and 3 on order, each with her own distinctive characteristics and unique style. By 2012 the Costa fleet will be 17 strong with total Guest capacity of approximately 46,400. All of the vessels fly the Italian flag and sail each year to 250 destinations in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, South America, the United Arab Emirates, the Far East and the Indian Ocean.

The ship’s printed itinerary mentioned the island’s proximity, but few of the 3200 passengers were looking outside. The Concordia left Civitavecchia, the port city of Rome, about 2 hours earlier, and the passengers were just settling into their vacation routines. Minnesota resident Ronda Rosenthal, who had stopped at her cabin before heading to a 9:30 pm performance by Martin the Magician, looked out her porthole and saw white froth. “The waves were cresting really high, and we could see lights in the distance,” Rosenthal says. “And I thought we are either going very fast or we are very close to shore.”

Schettino spoke to Palombo, only to find out that his friend and mentor was at his winter residence on the mainland. But there was no turning back; the ship was on a direct course for the rocky coast.

9:40 PM – Going Off Course

Modern cruise ships have electronic charts that show their GPS positions on screens. Any deviation from the plan entered into this ­system usually triggers an alarm. “It is possible that he [Schettino] disabled this for the maneuver,” says Ted Thompson, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain and the senior VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the Cruise Lines International Association. “In changing the track line he would have ­disabled the alarm as well. He may have just turned it off and was going manually and visually.”

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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