S. Floridians Tell of Experience Aboard Costa Concordia - NBC 6 South Florida

S. Floridians Tell of Experience Aboard Costa Concordia

Five bodies recovered; two Americans still missing



    The South Florida passengers from Costa Concordia return. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012)

    Among the thousands of passengers aboard the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of an Italian island Friday were several South Floridians who are now telling of their experience on the tragic voyage.

    Karen Camacho and her husband of Miami were on a trip to celebrate their 10-year anniversary but hardly had time to enjoy it.

    "We were sitting down to dinner and suddenly we heard a noise and the boat started to shake," she told NBC Miami. "Then there was another noise, like a squeak, and the boat started tilting."

    Things only got more horrifying from there, as numerous accounts from eyewitnesses tell of mass confusion among passenger and crew members alike.

    "It was really was horrible. I felt like I was in the movie 'Titanic,'" Cabrera said.

    David and Denise Saba waited a year to take their honeymoon but no doubt regretted their decision to wait.

    "Everybody started shouting and screaming and running and the ship started tilting to one side," David said.

    His new wife said things got worse when they finally made it to the lifeboats.

    "If we weren't going to die on the big ship, we were definitely going to die in the small boat because they didn't know how to work it," said Denise. "I thought it was going to flip over and we would just drown."

    Camacho said that she's also been disappointed with how the cruise line, Costa Concordia, has treated them after the accident. They were given food and water but she said nobody from the cruise line has come to see how they were doing or to offer anything besides the basics.

    While the South Floridians endured the confusion and hysteria along with the rest of the passengers and crew, they acknowledge that they were lucky to get out with lives.

    The latest statement released by Costa Cruises puts significant blame on Captain Francesco Schettino, who was arrested and charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The statement also says the ship's version of a black box had been covered and that the investigation into exactly what happened continues.

    In the mean time, the search continues for 15 people still unaccounted for in shipwreck, including two Americans. So far, five bodies have been found.

    Several calls have been made to the cruise line's parent company, Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, but so far the company has not responded to inquiries about whether they will be involved in any investigation and what steps will be taken to prevent future accidents.

    However, Carnival Cruise Lines Chairman Micky Arison did say in a statement Monday that "at this time our priority is the safety of our passengers and crew. We are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and our hearts go out to everyone affected by the grounding of the Costa Concordia, and especially to families and loved ones of those who lost their lives."

    Arlene Sanchez's mother, Connie Barron, was on the cruise ship with her boyfriend, Jay Garcia. As she waited for her mother to arrive back at Miami International Airport Monday afternoon, Sanchez said, "She told me it was indescribable, and she is never going to travel again in her life. She will never take a cruise. It was terrible. It was like the Titanic.”

    Sanchez's recounting of the phone conversation she had with her mother Friday night said it all.

    “She is a very strong woman, but there was a quiver in her voice – people in the background screaming, sirens, mayhem," she said.