Cruise Survivor Recounts Chaotic Rescue Efforts

She was watching a magic on the Costa Concordia Friday, when she heard a loud thud and the lights went out. She was told it was a minor technical glitch, and to remain calm.

Vanessa Rosales of El Paso, Texas, did remain calm – even as a chaotic scene unfolded with fights breaking out, throngs of people shoving each and a large ship that slowly started to tip over.

But it was when she saw the last rescue boat depart without her parents, Anita and Oscar Rosales, that made Rosales suddenly break down.

“They told us to go to one side, and when we got there they told us there were no more lifeboats left. They kept telling us to go to different directions, and it turns out we never got to one,” she said. “At the end they were all gone and I started panicking. What were we going to do? There were no lifeboats left.”

Fortunately for the Rosales family, a rescue boat returned to the ship to pick up more stranded passengers. And her family was able to make it on the boat.

At the end (all the lifeboats) were all gone and I started panicking. What were we going to do? There were no lifeboats left.

— Vanessa Morales, cruise survivor

“Gratefully, we were rescued at that moment,” she said.

Rosales was one of the lucky ones. The death toll of the Costa Concordia, which crashed off the Tuscan coast in Italy, doubled to 11 on Tuesday as prosecutors have centered their case on Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is facing charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. All were adults wearing life jackets and were found in rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro.

The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio after Schettino made an unauthorized deviation from the cruise ship's programmed course, apparently as a favor to his chief waiter, who hailed from the island.

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Schettino has insisted that he stayed aboard until the ship was evacuated. However, a recording of his conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco indicates he fled before all passengers were off — and then resisted De Falco's repeated orders to return.

"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?" De Falco shouted in the audio tape.

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Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and it was dark. At the time, he and his second-in-command were in a lifeboat and the captain said he was coordinating the rescue from there. He also said he was not going back on board the ship "because the other lifeboat is stopped."

Passengers have said many lifeboats on the exposed port side of the ship didn't winch down after the ship had capsized.

Supplemented with material by The Associated Press.

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