Family Rescue, Interrupted: A Survivor’s Tale From Doomed Italian Cruise Ship
Panic was unleashed aboard the Costa Concordia after it ran aground Friday night off the tiny Italian island of Giglio. Claudio Masia, 49, had his entire family to rescue, from his two children to his elderly parents. In the end, he couldn't quit
PORTOSCUSO - There was no time to think. Claudio Masia would simply follow his instincts – what else could he do? -- as the water rose faster and faster inside the Costa Concordia cruise ship that had just run aground off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio. To survive, and save his family members, it would be a matter of seconds.
In those few lingering moments between life and death, Masia thought first of his children, 8 and 13, and his young niece. Then his wife, and his mother and father. It would have all had a happy ending if only the last member to be rescued, his 85-year-old father, were still there when he'd returned after bringing his mother to a lifeboat.
But when he went back to the sinking ship, Giovanni Masia had disappeared in the darkness. Over the weekend, he was among those officially missing and unaccounted for. But now, he is among the six confirmed deaths. "I looked everywhere, in the dark of the night and into the black of the sea," recalled despondently Claudio Masia.
Grandpa's holiday wish
With the rest of the family back at home in Sardinia, Masia remained in Tuscany to wait for his dad.
Indeed, it was Giovanni Masia who'd had the idea of going on a cruise with the whole family. His son Claudio, who works in the aluminum industry, accepted the invitation to accompany his parents, along with his own young family.
"We were having dinner when we heard a violent blow, and then the lights went out," Masia recounted. "We realized something serious was happening. None of the Costa personnel informed us of what was really happening. We were left alone, in jeopardy."
The alarm signal came after 40 long minutes, in which crew members downplayed the seriousness of the situation. "I rushed to get the lifejackets in the bunks. Then I headed to deck no. 4 with my wife, our children, my parents and my niece. "
Then began the physical battle to escape death, and find a spot on the lifeboats that were being lowered, slowly, into the water. "I am not ashamed to say that I pushed people and used my fists to find a safe place. One guy tried to take my daughter's lifejacket, and I grabbed her just before she almost fell into the sea."
But the situation was destined to be even more complicated for his parents. He finally managed to carry his 84-year-old mother on his shoulders to get her to where she could find a seat on a lifeboat. Masia would have done the same with his father, but he didn't get back in time. "I never saw him again," he said. "He disappeared from my view as the ship sank."
Read the original article in Italian
Photo - Matthew Price