OTR Interviews

Couple that survived Italian cruise ship disaster: We knew there was a problem immediately

American couple recalls terrifying ordeal and chaos as Italian cruise ship capsized


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, the captain of the wrecked cruise ship is under house arrest. And also, there are big new developments in the Costa Concordia disaster, chilling recordings from the night of the crash, the Italian coast guard demanding the captain return to his sinking ship.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Through Translator) Get back on the ship and tell me how many people there are and what they have on board. Clear? Tell me if there are children, women, and what kind of help they need.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, you'll hear more of those disturbing recordings in just a few minutes. And there is more grim news tonight. The death toll is rising. Searchers find five more bodies in the wreckage. The death toll is now 11, but it is feared that it will be more. Dozens are still missing. On the Record" has all the new developments in this cruise ship disaster.

Plus, 100 years after the Titanic, with all the technology out there, how could such a tragedy possibly happen? Don't go away. You're about to get an inside look at the technology designed to prevent it.

But right now, surveying the -- surviving the disaster. A Michigan couple is back home tonight after surviving the shipwreck off the Tuscan coast. Kathy and Steve Ledtke were on a dream trip, vacationing on the Costa cruise ship. Another passenger shot dramatic video as the Ledtkes reached the island of Giglio.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kathy! Steve! Steve! Kathy!


VAN SUSTEREN: Kathy and Steve Ledtke join us from Detroit. And good evening. And boy, I bet you're feeling pretty lucky tonight back home. I take it you are.




VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. And we're happy to have you. I'm curious, take us back to what happened. Where were you when you first noticed that there was a problem?

STEVE LEDTKE: We had been on -- the trip had been going on for about three hours, and we were sitting down for dinner late in the evening, about 9:30. And we got to meet a couple, two couples around our table.

And all of a sudden, we heard a thud and felt a thud. It seems like within seconds, everything was tilting to the port or left side of the boat. The glasses were coming off the tables and dishes were flying, and people were getting up and slipping from the wet floors.

And all of a sudden, I was being -- the tables were all going to the left side and I was pinned between tables. And Kathy was trying to get some of the elderly to stairs where they could get some footing to stand on.

And then after -- within a minute, a couple minutes time of this, we were suddenly in darkness.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kathy, did you -- what was your thought as to what was happening? And as we look at these pictures, it's quite dramatic. The ship is on its side. Did it immediately go to the side, or did it sort of take some period of time to sort of list over to that position?

KATHY LEDTKE: You could feel it almost immediately, a listing. And what was going through my head is, find my husband, make sure he's OK and then get the heck to a lifeboat.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. As soon as it...

KATHY LEDTKE: We knew there was a problem immediately.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kathy, as soon as it happened and as soon as you made the recognition or the acknowledgment -- did you then immediately go to your cabin and get your jackets or go to your lifeboats? Tell me what you did.

KATHY LEDTKE: We absolutely -- it never occurred to either one of us to go to our cabin. We immediately -- well, after -- it was dark, and after I was -- like Steve said, I was helping those people get to the rail. Then we heard our friends. We became fast friends with the other people that we had met at our table. And between the four of us, we said, Let's get to the lifeboat right now.

And so by the grace of God, it was right outside our door where we were eating. And we just stayed right there. We grabbed a life jacket which happened to be there, and we just stayed right there.

I mean, several things in retrospect. I don't think -- we had just boarded the ship three hours prior. I don't think that we even would have known where our room was or our cabin was, and certainly not in the dark. It would have been risky to do that. It would have been a lot easier if we had our money and charge cards, and you know, our wallets and such, keys, a lot of things that we left in the room. But we were safe.

VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, I understand that after a period of time, a short time after the collision, that the power went out. And I'm curious to what extent there was any sort of hysteria among other passengers, whether the crew got on a loudspeaker and said, Man the lifeboats, or put any sort of order into this?

STEVE LEDTKE: Well, there was certainly panic in the darkness. And all of a sudden, within minutes, we have a tilted boat and darkness. And when -- the only -- the lights came back on, and when the lights came back on, the announcement was overhead that it's an electric problem and not to worry. Another note message was that they suggest you proceed to the theater or to go to your rooms. Our two couples thought it was not wise to do that. We went directly to the lifeboats.

VAN SUSTEREN: In making it to shore -- I understand that some of your family heard that tape and that was how they knew that you were alive, they heard the sort of the Kathy and the Steve tape. At least, that's what I've heard. Is that correct?

STEVE LEDTKE: That's correct, yes.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you make it to shore. You have no clothes other than what's on your back. You have no passport or no money. What did you do next?

STEVE LEDTKE: We tried to find a place -- it was a cool...


STEVE LEDTKE: Shelter. Everybody was kind of standing kind of in a daze, thousands of people. And there was not any assistance. We -- some people were going into a church for shelter. It wasn't heated, but it was just a little warmer than out in the open.

KATHY LEDTKE: So that's...


KATHY LEDTKE: We found our way to the church.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I look at these pictures, you know, it's, like -- it's hard to think of the word "lucky" in referring to you, but in light of the fact that some have lost lives, boy, you are lucky, aren't you.

STEVE LEDTKE: Yes, we are.

KATHY LEDTKE: Very much. Very much so.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this the last cruise you'll be taking?

STEVE LEDTKE: No, I don't think so. Maybe not with this company, but we've always enjoyed cruises.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, glad you're safe and well. It's terrible what's happened to the others. And of course, the investigation goes forward. There are all sorts of stories circulating tonight about whether the captain abandoned ship and left everybody, you know, to fend for himself or herself. Kathy and Steve, thank you. And welcome home.

KATHY LEDTKE: Thank you.

STEVE LEDTKE: Thank you very much, Greta. Thank you.

KATHY LEDTKE: Thank you. Glad to be here.