On the evening of January 13, 2012, Umberto Trotti heard the cries of his wife and child in the lifeboat below, and threw himself from the overturned Italian cruise ship.
The Costa Concordia, a massive, luxury liner, was scuttled off Italy’s Giglio island and plunged into cold water in a disaster that killed 32 people.
The lifeboat carrying his wife Fjorda and two young children had no room for Trotti, but when the ship was lowered into the water, hearing their panic, he jumped up to join them.
“It was instinct, my family needed me. I jumped three or four meters (10 or 13 feet). I landed on a big German, poor man,” Trotti told AFP.
The family was unsure whether to return to Giglio for a ceremony on Thursday and a candle-lit procession 10 years after the disaster.
The ship’s horns will sound and church bells will ring at 9:45 p.m. (20:45 GMT), to mark the moment Captain Francesco Chatino ordered a sail-buy, followed by US-based giant Carnival’s The liner, owned by subsidiary Costa Crosier, hit an outcrop. “Salute” to the Tuscan Islands.
Trotti, 44, and Fjorda, 33, went on their honeymoon.
“It was supposed to be the best experience of our lives,” he said.
“Those who are not on the ship will never understand. I was in so much shock, I was walking like a zombie.”
The ship, carrying 4,229 people from 70 countries, crashed when several passengers were having dinner.
Schettino, later sentenced to 16 years for the shipwreck, delayed sounding the alarm.
By the time evacuation began an hour after the collision, the one-way lifeboats were unusable.
“We were saved by a chef,” Trotti says. When the ship hit the ground, they were in the blue and gold Ristorante Milano.
Paolo Maspero, still in his chef’s hat, “took my six-month-old son in his arms. The water was coming”.
“If he hadn’t come to pick us up, we would have died,” said Trotti, who couldn’t swim.
Images later shot by the Coastguard show divers in a sunken restaurant battling flotsam, searching for victims.
People in a Vienna bar listen to pianist Antimo Magnotta, who fell from his stool as the ship bowed.
He found himself surrounded by bewildered passengers, demanding answers.
He told AFP: “A woman came to me with two very young children. She was like a tiger, a lion, she almost attacked me. She said ‘You have to tell me that to save my kids’ What is the plan.”
Magnotta, who wrote a book called “The Pianist of the Costa Concordia”, said that he did as he had been trained to do, and assured the passengers that the captain would make an announcement.
“I promised him. But Skitino never spoke. It was a big betrayal,” he said.
The power failed and as the rolling ship became increasingly difficult to move on, a series of “hellish” blackouts ensued.
Magnotta, 51, said, “People disappeared into the darkness, then reappeared. They shouted ‘Mom where are you?’. I still remember people looking for each other.”
He eventually managed to get to the side of the ship. Two of his friends died that night.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the musician moved to London and worked as a waiter at the Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe, which fortunately had a piano in it.
Months later he persuaded his manager to play it, and he was given a permanent gig.
Ten years later, he wants to return to Giglio to play for the locals. But she is unable to forgive Skitino for “never saying sorry”.
The former captain was convicted in 2015 of multiple counts of manslaughter, leading to a sea accident and leaving the ship before all passengers and crew could be evacuated.
Schettino – dubbed “Captain Coward” in the media – has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. His lawyers are expected to request this year that he serve the rest of his sentence at home for good behavior.
Kevin Rebello, 47, refused to judge Scatino, despite the death of his younger brother on board.
The body of 32-year-old waiter Russell was recovered three years after the disaster, when rusty rubble was destroyed.
He was ill that night. “He was in his cabin when it was filled with water,” Rebello told AFP.
“He ran barefoot in shorts and met a friend who gave him clothes … He helped people in lifeboats.
“He was still helping them when the ship leaned sharply, and the people fell into the water. After that no one saw him.”
Finding relief from the disaster is “incredibly difficult,” but Rebello is returning to Giglio for the anniversary.
“It’s like a second home to me. I feel closer to my brother when I’m there,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)