Last week I hinted that I might in a future blog share with you my opinions about the Costa Condordia disaster. Before I do, let’s recap what we already know. First, the timeline of events:
21:16 hours—The Costa Concordia deviates from its preprogrammed route in order to pass near the island of Giglio off the Italian coast. Speed: 15.5 knots (about 17.8 miles per hour).
21:36 hours—The Costa Concordia begins its turn to the north to avoid shallow waters and obstructions. Unfortunately, according to Captain Francesco Schettino the order for this turn to the north is given three minutes late. The ship’s mass and momentum continue to carry the ship even closer to disaster.
21:38 hours—The Costa Concordia strikes a navigationally charted rock. A seventy-meter (230 feet) gash is ripped into the port side of the ship. The Concordia immediately starts taking on water and, within minutes, the engines fail and electrical power is disrupted. Backup generators come online shortly thereafter.
21:42 hours—A general warning blast to the crew is given. Nothing detailing the developing crisis is broadcast to the passengers.
21:50 hours—The Costa Concordia begins to list. Loose objects start sliding off tables and other surfaces. Some passengers start retrieving flotation jackets and begin gathering on deck. Others await word from the bridge—word that will not come for another one hour eight minutes.
21:57—Captain Schettino makes his first communication with Costa headquarters advising them of a loss of power and flooding in one compartment (in fact five compartments had been breached and were taking on water; the Concordia was designed to survive a maximum of three flooded compartments). This call to Costa Cruises as the first of four made over a 36-minute period.
22:00—The Costa Concordia’s bow thrusters are employed to turn the ship to the right. The current carries the ship closer to shore.
22:06—Captain Schettino makes his second contact with Costa and advises that two compartments are taking on water.
22:12—The Italian Coast Guard is alerted by the police that passengers aboard the Costa Concordia are reporting that something has happened to the ship. The Italian Coast Guard makes contact with the ship to verify the reports. Someone aboard the ship replies, “We have a blackout and we are checking the conditions on board.” The Coast Guard is not advised of the flooding.
22:16—Captain Schettino advises Costa Cruise Lines that he has everything under control.
22:33—Captain Schettino finally advises Costa Cruise Lines that the Costa Concordia is in fact listing and taking on more water than it can handle. He tells the company that he intends to evacuate the ship. The ship has been listing for 43 minutes and is now listing so badly that the lifeboats can no longer be safely deployed for an orderly evacuation. Captain Schettino withholds his intention to evacuate from the passengers, ostensibly to avoid a panic that has already begun.
22:42—Over an hour after the collision Captain Schettino finally comes clean to Giglio port authorities and reports that there has been an accident.
22:58—Captain Schettino orders the evacuation of the Costa Concordia. It is already far too late for an orderly and safe evacuation. Later, one crew member would be quoted as saying that had the order to lower lifeboats been given an hour earlier (a commonsense precaution even if the full extent of damage had not been known at that time), all passengers and crew would have arrived on Giglio without so much as, “. . . getting their feet wet.”
00:40—The Italian Coast Guard is still struggling to find out how many people remain aboard the Costa Concordia. Captain Schettino advises that there are between 200 and 300 still aboard. Ten minutes later the Coast Guard asks again, and this time Captain Schettino says that only about 40 people await evacuation. The Coast Guard, incredulous of the report that upwards of 200 people were successfully evacuated in the ten minutes between the two reports, asks Captain Schettino if he is still aboard. His reply was, “No. I’m not on board because the bows of the ship are coming up. We’ve abandoned her.” At this time there are still hundreds of passengers and crew yet to be evacuated from the stricken ship. Unconfirmed reports from witnesses place Captain Schettino ashore and snuggled in a blanket as early as 23:40.
01:46—The Italian Coast Guard orders Captain Schettino to return to the Costa Concordia to oversee the evacuation of his ship. He repeatedly refuses the order. Eventually he tells the Coast Guard that he will return. Coast Guard personnel are on record as stating they do not believe he ever went back aboard.
Wednesday—My thoughts on what really was going on during all this.