Passengers on board the Costa Concordia were told to return to their cabins after the ship struck rocks, a crew member told a court today.
Deputy cabin services director, Jacqueline Abad Quine, was ordered to tell passengers that “everything was under control”, reports Sky News.
Mrs Quine broke down in tears as she recounted the account of the night the ship ran aground, after captain Francesco Schettino altered course to carry out a “sail-by salute” of the Italian island of Giglio.
She said: “People were agitated and worried – they wanted to get onto the lifeboats but the order didn’t come. When the passengers got to the muster stations I was told to try and calm them down, to reassure them.
“Children were hugging their parents. Reliving everything again now is really hard for me.”
Mrs Quine was apparently ordered to tell passengers that they should return to their cabins, and that things would be returning to normal as quickly as possible – after a blackout.
She told the hearing, in the Italian town of Grosseto: “The passengers wanted to get onboard the lifeboats. “They were pushing each other, trying to get on but we didn’t have the order to let them get onboard.
“Eventually the order to abandon ship came from the second officer. I made a human chain with others to get onto a lifeboat and there must have been around 150 people in it. When I looked back the ship had capsized.”
More than 4,000 passengers and crew – including 35 Britons – were onboard the Costa Concordia when it capsized in 2012. Thirty two people died in the disaster, and one person is still to be found.
Captain Schettino is accused of multiple manslaughter and abandoning the Costa Concordia while passengers and crew were still onboard. The trial is expected to continue into 2014.