Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Costa Concordia: The Tale of the Coward and the Hero

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Shareholders in Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) got a sobering reality check yesterday when shares in their stock dropped from $34.28 a share to $29.60 - a drop of $4.68 per share during one trading day.  The cause of that precipitous drop was, of course, the capsizing of the cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, off the coast of Italy.  The Costa Concordia is owned and operated by Carnival Cruise Lines.

For the past couple of days we have all been transfixed by images on the Internet of the big, beautiful cruise ship lying on its side in the Aegean, mostly submerged.  There were at least eleven deaths in the incident, and possibly more than twenty.

Today two tales have emerged regarding employees of the ship, one a tale of cowardice and the other a more uplifting story of heroism.  Sadly, the coward was Francesco Schettino, the ship's captain.  When he realized that his ship was in trouble, Captain Schettino wasted no time in getting himself aboard one of the lifeboats - hours before some of the passengers were able to do so.  None of that "Captain goes down with his ship" for that old sailor.  Today a tape was released in which a member of the Italian Coast Guard was heard ordering the Captain to return to his ship, but the Captain was refusing, saying that he could be of more help directing the recovery operation from the lifeboat.

Captain Schettino was arrested by Italian authorities for dereliction of duty, but today he was released into a program of house arrest.  He continues to deny that he did anything wrong.

The other employee of the ship who made news was a British teenager named James Thomas who was working as a dancer on board the vessel.  He discovered that some passengers had gone to the wrong floor and could not reach the lifeboats.  Young Thomas turned himself into a human ladder allowing passengers to climb down his body in order to reach the safety of the lifeboats.  The 6-foot 3-inch physically fit young dancer told the Daily Mirror:

"We couldn't get the lifeboats off and the life rafts the staff use were stuck to the side of the ship.  It was frightening.  People couldn't get down, the drop was too far, so I lowered myself into position.  I grabbed the lifeboat with one arm and the upper deck rail with the other and let people climb on my shoulder and down my body."

One of the passengers that James Thomas helped to rescue ultimately pulled the hero himself into a lifeboat.

The Costa Concordia had a staff of 1,023 - but many of those were involved in running the bars, casinos, theatres, shops, restaurants, and swimming pools on board the cruise ship.  Very few were qualified seamen, and most did not have sufficient training to deal with a sea-going emergency - including, it would seem, the ship's captain.

Fortunately for several of those on board, a young dancer mustered the courage to act courageously in the face of danger and save lives.  James Thomas is his name, and he is a hero!

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